What is IBS really?

In most recent years IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome or spastic colon) has been commonplace in our culture enveloping a plethora of conditions and disorders. It’s vague, blanketed term tells us just enough to know we “have that” but not enough to give us any real explanations for it’s origins.  The American College of Gastroenterologists estimates that 10 to 15 percent of the adult population has IBS symptoms, but only 5 to 7 percent have been diagnosed with the syndrome. For years I was told I have IBS but no one could really tell me what it meant or where it came from.

First discovered by Sir William Oster in the late 1800’s as mucous colitis (Br J Gen Pract. 2004 Jul 1; 54(504): 490–491) when his patients experienced gut pain, bloating, nausea, fatigue, depression, low back pain, rectal bleeding, constipation and diarrhea, to name a few,  it went through a metamorphosis over the next century until the abbreviation we know today finally became a mainstay in the early 1990’s.   There have been many theories over the years about what causes IBS.  Is it our diet?  Our lifestyle?  Our environment? Was it something that triggered this syndrome or were we born with it?

These are the questions that have plagued researchers for years.  Some theories of it’s origin, according to my gastroenterologist, Dr. William Salt, are an episode of food poisoning or several episodes of the stomach flu with vomiting and/or diarrhea, the food /pesticides/ preservatives our guts are exposed to, and a psychological disruption. In other words, IBS has a link to…wait for it…STRESS!  Or could have been triggered by a stressful event in your life.  How you handle stress (or how stress handles you) can play a large roll in how your digestive process can occur.

So what does IBS mean to me personally?  It means a daily task of preparing foods ahead of time, asking A LOT of questions when I go out to eat, and getting used to not indulging as much as I would like.  It’s okay, I’m used to it. And now, about 9 months into my lifestyle, I actually prefer to eat the way I do.  Not only because I know it’s healthy but because I just feel so much better-physically and mentally.  It doesn’t mean every day I feel 100% but if I can feel 99%, 90% of the time then I think I am doing well.

So you think you have IBS? What now?

  1. My first advice is to talk to someone. Make an appointment to see your family physician, a gastroenterologist,  a nutritionist; an internist.  Talk to friends, family, your dental hygienist, whomever! and open up dialogue. What you will find surprising is that they or someone they know has those same symptoms!  Maybe they can guide you in the right direction based on their personal experience!
  2. Keep a food log.  I know, something else you have to do, but it will help!  Write down breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and how you felt after eating.  If you felt badly after breakfast, eliminate those foods and then add them back in separately, similarly to finding a food allergy.  If you are like me I can just smell a food and get a stomach ache remembering how I felt after eating it! If none of that seems to help try waiting 4-5 hours between meals (to allow the entire digestive process to occur from start to finish) and fast 12 hours at night.  You can also try cooking down highly fibrous foods such as veggies, fruits, etc. so that your body doesn’t have to work so hard to digest them (I will touch on this more when I discuss SIBO).
  3.  Get your blood tested. A new blood test is now available called IBScheck to determine whether you have the antibodies associated with not only IBS but also Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. I received mine through my Gastroenterologist.  (I will take soon and post my results.)
  4.   TRY to reduce STRESS as much as possible.  Easier said than done, right?  Just like exercise, it takes practice and training.  Get up a half hour earlier, put the spa channel on your Pandora or IHeartRadio and just be.  Don’t think about the laundry or the kids or the dinner you burned yesterday or the errands you have to do, or your money situation, just be still-mind AND body.  And during the day, if you yell at the kids or get caught up in traffic, don’t internalize those things.  We all know there will be stressful situations in your life, it’s how you react to those things that matters. Remember: Stress = Inflammation. (This is also a reminder for me!)
  5. Get some exercise.  Or just get moving!  Circulation improves digestion so get that oxygen and blood flowing!

And lastly, and maybe the most important thing you can do for IBS?? Read this blog, follow it and share it with your friends and family! (ha-ha;)

Join me for my next post where we will be discussing SIBO. Wishing all of you a happy, heathy day!



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