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7 Hidden Triggers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

By Dalia Garalyte

Are you struggling with persistent gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and irregular stool patterns? If so, you might be among the 20 percent of Western world population dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that can significantly disrupt your daily life.

IBS, the most prevalent functional gastrointestinal disorder, remains a challenge to diagnose and treat. So today I delve deeper to uncover the underlying causes of this debilitating condition that can pave the way for true healing. In this article, we'll explore seven often overlooked contributors to IBS, offering insights into a more holistic approach to gut health.

Diagnosing IBS isn't always straightforward. If you're experiencing the symptoms without definable gastrointestinal diseases like Celiac disease, Chron’s, Ulcerative Colitis, or GERD, IBS might be the culprit.

However, diagnostic criteria have evolved over time, and now IBS is generally characterized by recurring abdominal pain for at least three days per month in the previous three months, accompanied by specific factors such as improvement with defecation, changes in stool frequency, and changes in stool consistency.

Living with irritable bowel syndrome doesn't need to be a lifelong struggle. By investigating lesser-known factors that contribute to IBS, you can address the root causes, facilitating true healing. Therefore, to truly tackle IBS, understanding its triggers is paramount.

Here are seven common factors that can contribute to IBS:

  1. Gut-brain axis disruption. The walls of your intestines have special muscles that help push food and waste through your body in a wave-like contraction. Sometimes, if the signals from your brain to these muscles get incorrect, they can contract too strongly and for too long, causing problems like gas, bloating, and diarrhoea. On the other hand, if the muscle contractions become weak and not often enough, your digestion can slow down, leading to constipation and hard, dry stools.

  2. Gut Dysbiosis. The gut microbiome's profound impact on health is well-established, extending to conditions like IBS. Gut dysbiosis, characterized by imbalances in gut bacteria composition, is a common factor in IBS. Research shows that IBS sufferers often exhibit decreased levels of beneficial bacteria and increased levels of harmful strains. Treating IBS with prebiotics and probiotics further emphasizes the role of gut dysbiosis.

  3. Gut Infections. Gut infections, often initiated by pathogens, have been linked to IBS development. The aftermath of bacterial gastroenteritis, as well as infections caused by parasites, may contribute to IBS symptoms.

  4. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO, a subset of gut dysbiosis, entails excessive bacterial presence in the small intestine. This can hinder digestion and nutrient absorption. Antimicrobials or antibiotics used to treat SIBO have shown efficacy in managing IBS symptoms, suggesting a potential link between the two.

  5. Leaky Gut (Increased Gut Permeability). A compromised intestinal barrier can lead to substances like undigested proteins and bacterial toxins entering the bloodstream, triggering immune responses and inflammation. Leaky gut often accompanies IBS, therefore restoration of the intestinal barrier is key for healing to occur.

  6. Non-Celiac food Intolerances. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity and other food intolerances share symptoms with IBS, making them challenging to distinguish. Common intolerances include gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, seafood, yeast, and soy. Addressing food intolerances might require uncovering deeper causes such as SIBO or gut infections.

  7. Mental and emotional stress. Research has shown that individuals who experience high stress levels or have encountered traumatic events, particularly during childhood, have a higher likelihood of developing IBS. Additionally, IBS is more frequently observed in individuals with specific mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

While there are many factors which can exacerbate IBS, your diet is a paramount when it comes to managing and healing IBS. While some with irritable bowel syndrome might benefit from a high-fiber regimen, others find relief by minimizing fiber intake. Each person is unique, and discovering the optimal diet requires a bit of trial and error.

Yet, certain dietary principles hold universal advantages for anyone addressing IBS. These include:

  • Embrace an anti-inflammatory diet: Prioritize foods that combat inflammation and nurture a thriving microbiome. Construct your meals around fresh produce, quality protein, and healthy fats.

  • Steer clear of inflammation-triggering foods: Processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy oils are notorious culprits for fostering inflammation—limit their consumption.

  • Try a targeted diet temporarily: For severe or persistent IBS cases, brief restrictive diets like low-FODMAP, demonstrated effectiveness in alleviating intense gut inflammation, which could provide your gut the opportunity to recover and reset.

While identifying and addressing the underlying causes of IBS isn't always straightforward, it offers a promising avenue for lasting relief. From resolving gut dysbiosis through diet, prebiotics and probiotics to repairing leaky gut and managing food sensitivities, a multifaceted strategy is a key to remarkable transformations to reclaim control over IBS.

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