IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A “syndrome” is a term applied to a group of symptoms which tend to occur together. The list of symptoms associated with IBS features up to ten different symptoms and if a person displays a number of them (and opinions vary as to how many of the ten you need to report to be diagnosed), then they are labelled as having “IBS”. This seems straightforward on the face of it until you realise that someone can have IBS with diarrhoea, and then IBS with constipation, so two people suffering completely opposite problems can be diagnosed as having the same condition.
IBS & IBD
So the two types are sub-classified as IBS-D, which is typified by diarrhoea, and IBS-C, which is the constipation version, so for each patient a clinician would need to categorise which type of IBS is being experienced. If a patient exhibits bouts of each alternately, then they are referred to as IBS-A for alternating.
Other symptoms include pain, griping tension in the lower abdominal region, bloating, urgency, mucus in the stool and even bleeding – the latter two often being signs that something inflammatory may be developing and these should quickly be reported to a physician.
IBS can exist simply as a range of symptoms that occur with the ingestion of certain foods and a lot of people with IBS will have a deep knowledge of what they can eat and what they can’t, in order to try and manage their condition.
Some people find they are ok until they eat a large meal late in the day and this sets up what looks quite like colic (the thing that keeps babies screaming in the late evenings), and this can be caused by gas forming in the transverse colon and getting trapped in the bowel causing extreme discomfort and pain. Often this is experienced with IBS-C as the bowel does not move the contents along as it should and the waste material and gas gets a bit stuck.
So IBS can be a bit of a shape-shifter in nature and difficult to pin down for the non-medically trained. Stress and psychological factors can affect the symptoms markedly, and this can be a bit of a vicious cycle where the symptoms themselves are distressing and this distress leads to more stress, and then greater severity of symptoms, and so on. Relaxation, mediation, massage and time-out can be great remedies in themselves, so lifestyle and diet may play a large part in the aetiology and often, for the relief of the condition.
One current theory is that food intolerances are very key factors, so making changes to your diet can help in many cases. We see great improvements when people stop eating grain-based foods like wheat and other flour-based products. This alone can make a huge difference to a lot of people. Other sufferers find that dairy products can cause problems so avoiding grains and dairy can be a huge help to many.
We at the Taymount Clinic also advise not to simply switch from gluten-containing foods straight into gluten-free foods (as these are becoming very trendy and fashionable right now), as they are highly processed and contain massive amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugar. We also advise to reduce sugar in the diet as well as this is thought to be inflammatory and helps to feed an imbalance in the gut flora – a problem because IBS can be a result of having a dysfunctional microbiome in the gut – a condition called ‘dysbiosis’. Jeff Leach, a researcher who has spent many months living and eating with an African tribe called the “Hadza”, has written a book (“Rewild”) about our microflora and how this generation is in possession of the worst diversity of gut flora in the whole history of our species. Quite a sweeping statement; other researchers estimate that we currently have half the diversity of gut microbes than we would have had in the 1940s. Since then, it is processed foods and antibiotics which have been prevalent. Maybe not just a coincidence?
Whatever your condition, if your bowel habits change suddenly or if you are not having your bowels open on
ce or twice a day, easily and without straining, then you probably need to seek some medical advice. Some practitioners believe that IBS is a precursor to more serious inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), so don’t ignore any troubling symptoms in the hope that they will sort themselves out, if you are in any doubt, seek the advice of your doctor.
Basic advice would be to eat a wide range of foods – diversity on the plate = diversity in the gut flora
Here is a grid of 50 squares; try and fill this grid by writing one different food in each square for a week. No duplicates and don’t count bagels, rolls, buns, pizza base as different, things, they are all wheat…. Count herbs as individuals, spices, vinegars and oils – they all count.
See how your bowels react to such a wide diversity of foods.
Make shopping an adventure and make cooking an experiment – make your Body your Hobby!
See if you can get to 50 different foods in a week. If this is easy, go for the 100. Write in to the Taymount Clinic with your experiences. This is like “crowd funding”, but instead it is “crowd research”! Your experiences count!
FOODS GRID – Aim for at least 50 different foods in one week for STAGE 1
Enid Taylor ND BSc(Hons) Psych is a Naturopath and Clinic Founder/Director of the Taymount Clinic.
For more information on the Taymount Clinic visit www.taymount.com or call 01462 712500