Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects almost 20% of New Zealanders but many sufferers of this gastrointestinal disorder live with the various symptoms of IBS and who are actually un-diagnosed.
What is IBS?
IBS is a group of symptoms that generally speaking causes digestive discomfort and altered bowel motions, either via urgency or slow transit time. The causes for the most part can be hard to detect, but Stress is known to be a major trigger. Stress can be from emotional, physical, immune or Food reactions. Altered micro flora is often found to be associated with IBS as well as impaired intestinal mucosal barrier which ultimately causes inflammation throughout the body and possible food intolerance's or low immune function.
Experiencing bloating and sharp abdominal pain along with altered bowel motions can be stressful in itself further adding to the problems. For many it can affect day to day functioning and may also be the lead cause of other symptoms such as depression/anxiety, migraines/headaches, joint pain/arthritis, general digestive issues, chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia among others.
Although the root cause of IBS is still unknown even after many years of research, more is understood about this condition now which has resulted in some excellent supplement and nutritional considerations which are well worth trying.
Get your micro flora back into balance
Healing your leaky gut
If you have had ongoing IBS, then you probably have poor intestinal wall integrity. In a nutshell what this means, is that the small intestinal wall should have a nice tight snug fit where the only thing to get through should be broken down nutrients in minuscule form, small enough to pass through the junctions in the microvilli to get into the blood stream.
Where there has been intestinal inflammation such as in IBS then larger protein molecules can pass through into the bloodstream, and this causes an immune reaction, and this just makes inflammation worse. Over the counter anti-inflammatory's can make the matter worse (something that is sometimes prescribed for those who have IBS and joint pain), autoimmune conditions can be the cause or be caused be leaky gut as well as ongoing food intolerance's. Healing of the intestinal tract is important as well as reducing inflammation.
Awesome nutrients to consider include zinc, glutamine, Aloe Vera, Omega-3, B complex, Inulin or Pectin fibre, Peppermint, Vitamin C and D, Boswellia, Magnesium bi-glycinate or Citrate among others.
Support the stress
Not only does stress cause IBS but IBS causes stress. ARRRGGGHHH! So addressing stress is absolutely key but something that often gets forgotten about. You may not feel like stress is an issue but it is really important to understand the biochemical reaction that occurs regardless of the cause of stress (see blog regarding stress)
There are now some great retail supplement products that specifically address stress as part of the IBS picture which is great to see. Some lovely stress supporting nutrients include:
- Magnesium Biglycinate or Citrate
- Wild Oats
- Lemon Balm
- B Complex
- Kava Calm
Some people who have IBS understand that some foods can trigger abdominal discomfort so avoid certain foods. This is not easy for everyone and sometimes the FODMAP diet is suggested. This kind of food elimination protocol can have great results but is extremely restrictive so generally speaking many people don't stick to it for very long.
The main foods that seem to be the culprit are processed sugar, some sugars found naturally in fruit, some vegetables such as onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, and of course the most common would be dairy and/or gluten. The actual list is quite long and exhaustive.
In clinic I recommend starting with removing as many processed foods as possible and this takes care of the wheat/gluten side of things. For some dairy might be an issue but not all dairy causes the same gut issues. If you know onion knocks you for 6 then I would suggest avoiding it.
However, many people don't know that simply supporting good digestion through food/drink choices and supplements can have really great outcomes towards helping with IBS.
- Apple Cider Vinegar is one popular choice to help digestion. Sipping on diluted ACV or drinking 1/2 tsp 20-30 minutes before lunch and dinner can be quite helpful as it promotes good stomach acid production.
- Good quality digestive enzyme supplementation cn ensure that the right enzymes are being produced as well as stomach acid needed for proper breakdown of food.
- Herbs such as Kawakawa, Meadowsweet, Fennel can be really helpful for promoting food digestive function as well as calming symptoms of IBS.
- Chewing your food slowly as well as eating whilst seated (as in not on the go) also helps towards good digestion.
- Drinking fluids can dull down the digestive acid which is not ideal for proper food breakdown so avoiding large amounts of liquids with your meals is recommended.
Sometimes even after trying many of these ideas IBS is still present and causing issues. For many IBS is a lifelong condition to have to deal with. However in clinic I still recommend for clients to consider testing to rule out any other issues that may be playing a role, such as comprehensive stool testing (parasites, fungi) or SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth) breath test.
These are functional test not done through local labs but are carried out through specialised health practitioners which give more robust and comprehensive information than normal lab tests.
In the meantime if you have any more burning questions don't hesitate to use the live chat box, or some in store to chat to one of the lovely staff who will be able to talk to you through the many supplements we have on hand.
And don't forget April is IBS awareness month so we have some great specials on IBS products including probiotics.