IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
In our clinic, a special interest of many of our practitioners is digestive and gut health. It seems that every day we meet more and more people diagnosed as Coeliac, struggling with Chrohns disease, developing food allergies or intolerances, colitis or symptoms of IBS. As some of our team have also faced these conditions, it’s a place where we can literally say ‘we know how that feels’ and it also means managing gut dysfunction is a specialty.
There are so many variables which affect our digestive system. Often we are unaware of the functioning of the gut. Most people don’t know that neurotransmitters in the brain allow the brain and gut to communicate via nerve cells. All this happens without even thinking about it through our enteric nervous system.
People are now becoming more aware that there has been a huge increase in the last decade in the appearance or diagnosis of gut related disorders. Some people seek advice from ‘Dr Google’ however more and more people are looking to holistic wellness centres for support as it seems we now understand that a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily provide a cure. So what happens when you have abdominal pain and you don’t know what to do next?
One of the most commonly diagnosed digestive disorders is Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This is a term used to describe a range of gut symptoms caused by a range of variables.
Too many times patients arrive in clinic having been ‘diagnosed with IBS’ when further testing and investigation reveals they have food intolerances, a leaky gut, motility problems, are gluten or lactose intolerant, coeliac or in fact, have a more serious inflammatory bowel disease.
In the case of serious disease, it is important to speak with a doctor or medical professional about this, and when we strike this in clinic, our first response is to refer you straight away.
For the purposes of this post however, let’s talk about IBS as we know it – an umbrella term for a range of gut symptoms.
If you have an ‘Irritable Bowel’ you can expect to be familiar with gas, bloating, abdominal pain, urgency (especially after eating a food which doesn’t “agree” with you), alternating diarrhoea and constipation, maybe gastric reflux, occasional mucus in your stools, or you might feel nauseous and not feel like eating at all. There is a lot of research available today which supports the fact that gut disorders contribute to fatigue, low mood, anxiety, and sleep problems – in fact THIS ARTICLE from Harvard Health delves deeper into the gut brain connection and is worth a read.
We believe that the way to move forward is to isolate the cause of the digestive dysfunction, which is where we need to take the time to do thorough and extensive case histories, dietary analysis, and various testing procedures to get the clearest picture possible.
We may find that there are food intolerances or allergies. Perhaps there is severe life stress going on, and the number of people who avoid drinking water and eat little or no fibre – or the wrong type of fibre – is frightening!
Other causes include:
- gut flora dysbiosis – too much “bad “bacteria and not enough “good” bacteria
- lactose or gluten intolerance
- fructose malabsorption
- leaky gut
- parasitic infection
- bacterial infections
- or motility disorder
From a Naturopathic point of view we look at dietary and lifestyle changes and use herbs, vitamins, minerals and probiotics to promote thorough gut healing, naturally.
In most cases there is always a trigger for IBS. There is always inflammation, and it becomes a priority to reduce inflammation to enable us to see what else is going on with your health. Most often there is always a food culprit or two in the mix and part of our investigative work looks for common signs such as dark circles under the eyes and ridges on the nails, as well as brain fog and feeling fatigued.
We also look into how stressed you are.
Have you been living under stress for so long that you can’t remember what normal feels like?
Could your adrenals do with some support?
In clinic we use Hemaview Live Blood analysis testing as well as conventional tests to give us a clearer picture of what is going on. A Colonoscopy and Gastroscopy can be invaluable for getting a clearer picture – literally.
Soothing healing herbs, probiotics and good nutrition is a great place to start as we all know that what you put in your mouth has to work its way through your system and come out the other end! If you are making poor food choices, or eating foods that your body just can’t cope with then of course symptoms of inflammation or intolerance will manifest in your body. Our digestive system is remarkably resilient and will take pretty much anything we ingest and try to deal with it, however, if it identifies a food as a ‘poison’ it will do its best to expel it, one way or the other.
Fatty and spicy foods, coffee, tea and alcohol, fizzy drinks, sulphites and artificial sweeteners play havoc with the digestive system, but one in poor health really feels the effects of the bodies coping or expulsion mechanism. It’s a bit like pouring salt on an open wound: you wouldn’t do that, so why do what is in effect the same thing to a disordered gut? Even something as simple as slowing down and chewing food properly can make a difference.
Our favourite ‘go-to’s’ in gut healing are glutamine, slippery elm, probiotics, digestive enzymes and fermented foods like Kombucha and Kimchi.
Soothing herbs such as peppermint, ginger, chamomile and lemon balm can also help and supportive liver herbs are fantastic as a leaky gut can certainly put the liver under pressure, as toxins are released from the gut into the bloodstream instead of passing out in the faeces or urine as they are supposed to.
When we work with you we may look at a low FODMAP diet which can be helpful. The low FODMAP diet was developed by Monash University and removes fructo-oligosaccharides from your diet, reducing gut inflammation.
So there you have it. Bloating, fatigue, brain fog, nausea and upset tummies are not normal. They’re a sign that your body is trying to communicate with you and your job is to listen – and talk to us.
If anything in this blog resonates with you, do seek help. You don’t have to spend sleepless nights asking ‘Dr Google’ for the answers or take Losec for the rest of your life while you endure debilitating gut problems. Having an open and honest conversation with one of our experienced and knowledgeable team is the perfect place to start and like we said at the very beginning: we get it. Most of us have been there and speaking from experience, we know the pathway to wellness really is an ‘inside job’.