From WebMd: IBS is a disorder of the intestines. It causes belly pain, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. Irritable bowel syndrome is a long-term problem, but there are things you can do to reduce your symptoms.
Your symptoms may be worse or better from day to day, but your IBS will not get worse over time. IBS does not cause more serious diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
Doctors do not know exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome. In IBS, the movement of the digestive tract does not work as it should, but there is no sign of changes in the intestines, such as inflammation or tumors. Doctors think that IBS symptoms are related to problems with the signals sent between the brain and the intestines. This causes problems with the way the muscles of the intestines move.
I'm guessing you already knew that part, right?
Since I'm a chiropractor, I'm going to focus on the last couple sentences of that description. "Doctors think that IBS symptoms are related to problems with the signals sent between the brain and the intestines."
Don't worry, I'll talk about other remedies too, but let's focus on just the anatomy for a second.
What Causes IBS?Let's start with basic anatomy. Your brain controls everything.
Most people won't argue with me here. We all know that if you break your neck and cut off signals from the brain, you can become paralyzed or die. Those brain signals control everything below the brain, and the spinal cord is the way the messages are sent.
You can read a small article I wrote about just this topic here.
So from just an anatomy point of view, chiropractic adjustments of the spine may help relieve some symptoms. I have several patients who have had bowel problems resolve after we started working together for low back pain.
The Mind/Body ConnectionBeing friends with and having shared an office with a clinical hypnotherapist for a while, I've learned that hypnotherapy can be very powerful at healing chronic diseases; IBS is no exception. Consider that the stress response directly affects the GI tract, and from a neurology point of view, our gut is like a "second brain." In fact, it has a huge complex of nerves that control it (there really is a reason it's called a "gut feeling") and those nerves are intricately tied to our brains.
So all the evidence does show a link between stress, our minds, and IBS. Hypnosis helps with all of those.
If this is something you would like to look into further, I recommend the Irritable Bowel Syndrome hypnosis download that you can put right on your iPod.
You can learn more about it by clicking here.
For a really great website that covers all things IBS, check out IBS Help Online.com. They have extensive information as well as the chance to talk to an online doctor.
How Food Affects IBSWhat's the one thing you put in your GI tract every day? Food, right?
After all, if it weren't for food, you wouldn't need a bowel.
The GI tract has different parts. The mouth is where the food starts being broken down. That happens through the physical act of chewing and the enzymes that are secreted in saliva.
After you swallow, your food goes down the esophagus to the stomach, and hydrochloric acid breaks the food down into very tiny parts.
Here's where irritable bowel syndrome starts in a lot of patients, in my opinion. If you suffer from acid reflux and are on stomach acid blockers (prescription OR over the counter, like Tums), then you're stomach isn't able to break down your food the way it's supposed to. That means that larger chunks of food will eventually make their way to the bowel, which can cause your immune system to launch an attack agains the "foreign invader."
So if you have IBS and you ALSO have reflux, my recommendation is to either add a supplement that increases hydrochloric acid, take digestive enzymes with your meal, or add unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar to your meal (I actually have some patients who drink a tablespoon straight with their meals).
After the food is broken down into tiny little pieces, it goes to the small intestine and this is where all the nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream. When it reaches the end of the small intestine and passes into the large intestine (or colon), your body will then absorb any water out of what's left, and you will eliminate the remainder.
The first thing I tell people with irritable bowel syndrome to do is eat low glycemic for a month, with a few exceptions. Because low glycemic eating is based on whole, unprocessed foods, it's a good way to get many of the chemicals can that cause tummy upset out of your system. You'll also find that you may drop some weight and if you any sort of inflammatory condition or type II diabetes you'll probably see improvements there, too.
Changing diet is the absolute first thing you should try, as it's the most likely culprit to your IBS.
There are also some lifestyle changes that you need to make, and for a great program that helps IBS, Click Here.
Now let's talk some specifics about diet changes. For a great site dedicated entirely to irritable bowel syndrome, you can visit Help for IBS and find a ton of great info as well as forums and products to help soothe your tummy.
How to Eat if You Have IBSThere are a few basic rules to eating for irritable bowel syndrome.
First, eat soluble fiber first at every meal, eat soluble fiber if your tummy is empty and make soluble fiber foods the largest component of every meal and snack.
Keep your fat intake at 25% or LESS of your diet. Focus on heart healthy snacks. NEVER eat high fat foods, even in small portions, on an empty stomach.
The IBS triggers are red meat, dairy, fried foods, egg yolks, coffee, soda and alcohol. Remove them.
Never eat INsoluble fiber on an empty stomach, in large quantities at one sitting, or without soluble fiber. Cook, chop, or puree insoluble fiber foods to make them safer.
Eat small portions, at a leisurely pace.
For a great cheat sheet on which foods have soluble and insoluble fibers and the trigger foods to avoid, you may download this cheat sheet and carry it with you.
Dietary information for IBS has been graciously provided by Heather Van Vorous at Help For IBS.com. She also created the IBS Cheat Sheet that I recommend, and that you may download.
Download the IBS cheat sheet here.
If Changing Your Diet Did Not Work, Now What?Sometimes though, diet change alone doesn't make as big of a difference in your irritable bowel syndrome as we think it will, and at that point it's time to dig a little deeper.
If this is you, you may have a food sensitivity or intolerance that is causing you trouble.
With food intolerances, there's not enough of an issue for your body to create the antibodies that can be found in routine blood work. For example, I have an intolerance to wheat, but my blood work shows a negative anti-gliaden antibody. That's the anti-body you make if you have a wheat allergy. Through extensive trial and error on my part, I've learned that wheat will cause my joints to ache. It took me nearly 4 years to figure it out, and while wheat is one of the main culprits, it's not the only one.
If you've already changed your diet and eliminated processed foods AND if you've already eaten low glycemic for at least a month AND if you've already eliminated wheat, dairy, corn, eggs, and nuts AND if you're still having irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, THEN I think it's time for some more specialized testing to rule out a delayed food intolerance as cause of your IBS.
A Commonly Overlooked Reason for IBS - Food SensitivitiesWhen I treat irritable bowel syndrome in the office, I offer blood testing for delayed food intolerances using the ALCAT test. This blood test looks at white blood cell activity when whole blood is exposed to foods known to cause sensitivities.
Along with your test results, you're given a complete report and a 6 month elimination diet so that you can heal your GI tract. After you've eliminated the offending foods for a period of 3 to 6 months, you then slowly start adding them back in to see if you can now tolerate them. The great thing about this kind of program is that often you CAN add the foods back in - once you've healed the bowel.
Remember, here's your plan if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
- Eat a low glycemic diet with no processed foods
- Have your spine adjusted (especially if you also have low back pain)
- Eliminate wheat, dairy, corn, eggs and nuts if the change to low glycemic eating doesn't help
- Have an ALCAT blood test to see if you have delayed food intolerances
For detailed information on the ALCAT test and the foods it tests for, click here to go to the ALCAT test page.
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