What is causing my IBS?!

IBS is poorly understood by conventional medicine and is considered a group of symptoms that don’t have an exact cause. This is because IBS isn’t a disease but rather a label given to a collection of symptoms; it’s a diagnosis of exclusion made once serious diseases have been ruled out.

I agree that the exact cause of IBS is unknown, however, recent research has highlighted that IBS is a multifactorial condition with many possible causes that can contribute to its development. The problem (I feel) with an IBS diagnosis, is that it distracts from the root problem and hence it can be tricky to resolve without the right approach/support. However, with a bit of detective work – we can uncover the root cause(s)! The good news is that if you can identify the cause, then you are much more likely to resolve it and bring about long term IBS relief. 

We will discuss some of the common causes of IBS individually (and in more detail) in future blog posts but for now, here is a brief summary:

Common causes of IBS

  1. Poor digestion. Low stomach acid, poor pancreatic enzyme secretion, or low bile output impairs food breakdown and contributes to poor digestion. If we can’t break down our food properly, then it can ferment and putrefy in the intestines causing many common IBS symptoms like bloating, flatulence, discomfort and altered bowel movements/appearances.
  1. Intestinal Permeability. Damage to the delicate intestinal lining (where food is absorbed) can lead to undigested food and other large molecules (e.g. bad bacteria, toxins) to pass through the intestinal barrier and into your bloodstream, where they are not supposed to be! It’s like your gut lining goes from an intact fishing net to one that is damaged with large holes in it. This results in inflammation and pain which can contribute to the development of IBS.
  1. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is a very common yet often overlooked cause of IBS. Infact, according to research up to 85% of IBS cases are actually SIBO! SIBO occurs when there are too many bacteria in the small intestine which can consequently trigger bloating, pain, flatulence and diarrhoea. 
  1. Food poisoning. 1 in 9 people develop IBS after an episode of food poisoning. Toxins released from bacteria that cause food poisoning trigger an immune response which in some cases can result in damage to gut nerves and altered gut contractions/motility. This results in many symptoms associated with IBS. 
  1. Chronic Stress. Chronic stress suppresses digestive secretions (e.g. pancreatic enzymes and stomach acid) and can disrupt gut permeability (leakiness) and function (e.g. motility/movement). So it’s no surprise that chronic stress can result in a myriad of digestive symptoms. 
  1. Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis refers to alterations in the diversity and composition of  gut microbiota. In other words, it is an imbalance between the good and bad microbes that live in our gut. IBS sufferers tend to have a lower amount of beneficial bacteria which can result in changes to our digestion, motility, mood and gut sensitivity. 
  1. Other potential causes are genetics, food sensitivities or intolerances, gut hypersensitivity, low mood and anxiety. 

No two cases of IBS are the same. In-depth testing (e.g. stool testing) and a detailed case history are instrumental in uncovering your individual underlying causes. Once identified, we can then tackle the cause(s) and correct any imbalances through personalised nutrition, lifestyle and targeted supplements.

If you would like help identifying your IBS root causes, do contact me for details of testing, 1:1 support packages and how I can help you on your IBS journey. 

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