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Are you suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

February 6, 2020

What is IBS?

IBS is a group of intestinal symptoms that are usually found together (meaning there is usually more than one.) The symptoms vary from person to person and women are more susceptible to having IBS. This can happen more around menstruation so it could be more of a hormonal imbalance that's contributing to these symptoms as symptoms can be reduced in menopausal women.

Causes of IBS

Medically, the underlying cause of irritable bowel syndrome is still unknown, although certain factors have been found to ‘trigger’ attacks in susceptible individuals.

  • Infection - food poisoning, viral or parasitic;
  • Food intolerance - it is important to be tested for Coeliac Disease;
  • General diet - a low fibre diet can cause further problems for people with constipation. Fructose or sorbitol can increase symptoms of diarrhoea;
  • Emotional stress - anxiety and chronic stress can affect nerves in your digestive tract (such as the vagus nerve) leading to IBS symptoms; and
  • Long term use of medications can lead to both constipation or diarrhoea. Laxatives weaken the bowel lining causing a 'sluggish' bowel. Gastro-stop, Imodium works to slow bowel transit time along with firming the stool and should not be used long term. These medications also affect our good gut bacteria.

Signs and Symptoms of IBS

  • The main one is abdominal cramping. This can happen during or after meals and is relieved once you have opened your bowels;
  • Gas and bloating - after meals;
  • Constipation - less than 3 bowel motions per week;
  • Diarrhoea - watery or soft (like a cow pat) stools with urgency or frequent explosive bowels;
  • Combination of both constipation and diarrhoea;
  • Mucous in your stool;
  • Food intolerances;
  • Fatigue;
  • Insomnia;
  • Anxiety;
  • Depression; and
  • Stress.

Foods that can cause a flare up

  • Onions;
  • Garlic;
  • Dairy;
  • Gluten containing grains;
  • Caffeine;
  • Alcohol;
  • Legumes;
  • Bad carbohydrates (processed foods); and
  • Diets high in sugar.

What is Irritable Bowel Disease?

Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is an inflammatory condition that is seen throughout the digestive tract. The two common conditions are Ulcerated Colitis and Crohn's Disease. Both IBS and IBD are conditions that are associated with small bacterial over growth (SIBO).

IBS and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

IBS is a problem associated with the large intestine and SIBO results from the bacteria from the large intestine overgrowing and spreading to the small intestine.

84% of IBS patients exhibited bacterial overgrowth based on the lactulose breath test. This test is used to confirm SIBO and can be ordered through clinic. IBS has many presenting symptoms that are the same as SIBO.

  • Constipation;
  • Diarrhoea;
  • Combination of both;
  • Abdominal cramping;
  • Bloating/wind/gas;
  • Burping;
  • Reflux; and
  • Food sensitivities.

How does Naturopathy help IBS?

Naturopathy includes herbal medicine, nutritional medicine and dietary changes

As a Naturopath and SIBO Practitioner I use up-to-date information in both herbal and nutritional medicine along with the SIBO Bi-phasic diet (designed by Dr Nirala Jacobi) to treat the underlying symptoms of your IBS. By treating the root cause of your IBS and lets face it, everyone is different so it is a very individualised treatment plan which is why you really need someone that understands IBS and SIBO.

Dietary changes are necessary as we need to reduce fermentable starches and fibres to starve the bacteria that are in the small intestine, as they thrive on these foods. It is important to begin to repair the intestinal lining and improve digestion (reduce and repair). Once there are improvements it is important to continue to remove the remaining bacterial overgrowth as (they like to hide!)

This is where Naturopathy really gets in to clear these bad guys as we use herbal antimicrobials for this purpose. Increasing our range of low fibre foods, along with fermentable foods will help with successful treatment of SIBO (remove and restore).

Some people follow the low FODMAPs diet as this was designed by Monash University, especially for people with IBS and whilst it is a great tool to relieve symptoms it does not clear the underlying cause and should only be followed for a short period of time as it is very restrictive and we really need to add back 'whole foods' once your Naturopathic treatment has been completed.

I will admit that I am not a huge fan of the low FODMAPs diet as there are far too many processed foods included that feed the bad bacteria. This is a type of 'band-aid' fix as it is not treating the underlying cause.

What are Herbal Anti-Microbials?

These are a vast range of herbs that work in synergy as anti-bacterials, anti-virals and anti-fungals. These include Oregano, Garlic, Thyme, Myrrh, Neem and herbs that contain Berberine. These herbs are needed to clear the bad bacteria from your small intestine along with supporting our liver and digestion.

These work as well and if not better than Rifaxamin (antibiotic) which is quiet expensive and not readily available here in Australia.

Herbal Medicine

Healing your IBS and SIBO requires a 'holistic' treatment approach. The Bi-Phasic program is for a minimum period of three months. If you've had IBS for a long period of time you will need to continue your treatment past the three month time frame.

Repair, Re-balance, Restore

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