Irritable Bowel Syndrome (also known as IBS) is a chronic disorder that many people may have and not even know it. Do you have certain foods that you avoid because they “don’t agree” with you? Bloating or cramps after eating? What about inconsistent or frequently loose stools? You just might have IBS.
IBS is a chronic disorder that affects your intestines. It’s usually referred to as a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder as routine tests usually result in normal. Most who suffer from IBS might have one of these compromises:
IBS is often called a brain-gut disorder as the brain not only has control over major gut functions but also is impacted by the signals it receives from the gut. This constant communication between the brain and the gut is called the Gut-Brain Axis. We will make a detailed article on the Gut-Brain Axis in a future blog, so stay tuned!
Mild symptoms are usually experienced as stomach pains (like cramps, or bloating) after meals, alternating bowel habits from constipation to loose stools, urgency, and feeling incomplete emptying after a bowel movement.
Severe symptoms are much less common and can appear in the form of diarrhea that occurs at night, vomiting, weight loss, rectal bleeding, pain that doesn’t go away after passing a bowel movement, as well as iron deficiency anemia. It is important for those suffering from chronic severe symptoms of IBS to see a doctor if any of these symptoms appear as severe IBS conditions share many symptoms with colon and colorectal cancer.
Less commonly known aspects of IBS are its connection to gynecological and psychological issues. In a study with 150 menstruating women with IBS, around 45% and 35% self-identified themselves as experiencing more painful periods and stronger PMS symptoms. In another study, 30% of women with IBS had a history of chronic pelvic pain. Lastly, 32% of women with IBS report concerns with low sexual function, and this is not exclusive to only women.
The first step in treating IBS is to find the cause. Even though we don’t have a complete understanding of the causes of IBS, we do have a list of a couple of culprits. In IBS, the digestive system will give the impression of being normal in routine tests, however, that’s because they aren’t testing for the right thing. It’s estimated that 60% of IBS is caused by SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The microbiome of your gut plays a role not only in breaking down our food, but also regulates motility, sensation, and immune function in the gut. Having dysbiosis (or lack of balance) in the composition of your bacteria affects these functions leading to the symptoms above. A way to test for SIBO is through a breath test. Other causes can include gastrointestinal yeast overgrowth and food intolerances. Testing along with treatment and diet/lifestyle changes can begin your journey to a symptom-free life. Make an appointment today with one of our providers to discuss what test and treatment are right for you.
Pimentel, M., & Lembo, A. (2020). Microbiome and its role in irritable bowel syndrome. Digestive diseases and sciences, 65(3), 829-839.
Sachdeva, S., Rawat, A. K., Reddy, R. S., & Puri, A. S. (2011). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in irritable bowel syndrome: frequency and predictors. Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology, 26, 135-138.