In Blog, Digestion, Nutrition

After 10 years of suffering with stomach cramps and feeling like there were people jumping up and town in my intestines daily, I decided the IBS diagnosis just wasn’t good enough for me.

Why was it that whilst I ran to the loo every time I got a bit nervous, my friend would be constipated for days on end, and yet somehow we both had the same ‘condition’? It just didn’t make any sense.

In my quest to sort out my gut I tried so many things… from magnets in my shoes (I’m not kidding!), to swallowing charcoal tablets; deep breathing in my belly to eating copious amounts of plain bread; acupuncture to tai chi; and my favourite one of all… shoving a tube where tubes shouldn’t really be, in the middle of a juice cleanse to ‘detox’ fully. I even bought a book on ‘IBS’ to try and figure out what to eat.
There was not a single point along the way that my doctor turned round in the middle of poking my abdomen to question my diet or ask me about how long I’d been taking ‘the pill’.

Have you ever been told by your doctor that ‘the pill’ can cause a complete imbalance in your gut flora? Or that antibiotics can wipe out all the good guys in your gut as well as the nasty bugs? My guess is no, unless you’re in the minority.

Have you ever been told by your doctor that ‘the pill’ can cause a complete imbalance in your gut flora?

So there’s the first bit of information that will give you more clarity than I had for 10 years. The pill / antibiotics = not a happy tummy.

To cut a long story short, IBS is a very generic name for a very complex range of symptoms, and to treat any kind of gut problem, you need to really dig beneath the surface to find out what’s going on.
So to help get a little more understanding, below is a list of SOME of the possible culprits:

Dysbiosis

This is when your ‘bad’ bacteria outweigh the beneficial guys. It can be caused by contaminated food/ drink, stress, prescription drugs, compromised digestion, refined carbs, high hormone levels or a damp/ mouldy environment!

Candida

Oh so common across the globe, candida is a fungus, which can actually benefit us when balanced in the body. However, when it gets out of whack and over produces, it becomes a yeast infection and produces symptoms.

Parasite Infection

Yup… It sounds gross, but truth is, if you’ve ventured internationally and had a dodgy stomach, you may have picked something up. They can get into your system through contaminated food or water (use a filter!) and if you have an imbalanced gut or a weakened immune system your susceptibility can be higher. They pretty much end up eating your food for you and preventing you from getting all the nutrients!

Low Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes help breakdown your food but over- cooked, processed and sugary foods, as well as prescription drugs, a poorly functioning liver, and stress can prevent your body from making these enzymes and stop effective digestion.

Low Stomach Acid

Burping and heartburn? This may be an indicator of low stomach acid. This acid is responsible for breaking down proteins, getting your pancreas to make digestive enzymes, and preventing disease by killing off yeast and pathogenic bacteria.

Leaky Gut (or intestinal permeability)

This is when small holes in your gut get damaged and increase in size. Bigger, larger particles can get through the walls like undigested food, gluten and bad bacteria, leading to an immune reaction and inflammation in the body.

SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)

SIBO is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, which is normally found in the large intestine. It can affect the function and structure of the organ, interfering with digestion and nutrient absorption, possibly leading to leaky gut.

Food Intolerances or allergies

Undiagnosed coeliac disease (an immune response to gluten) can cause a whole host of problems including inflammation in the body and complete damage to the gut. Don’t be fooled, you may not necessarily know you have coeliac disease as it isn’t always obvious, but it’s definitely a good thing to rule out. Similarly, any food sensitivities or intolerance can also create inflammation and effect digestion.

H-pylori

Helicobacter pylori are bacteria that can cause sores and ulcers in your stomach or small intestine by attacking the stomach lining. It can cause pain or other digestive issues.
All of these things can cause so many digestive problems from pain to heartburn, bloating to fatigue, constipation to diarrhoea. Don’t just think you have to just live with an “IBS” diagnosis for the rest of your life… find out what it is and tackle the route of the problem! Remember this isn’t an extensive list either and there may be other underlying things going on. Whilst I personally don’t take kindly to the IBS diagnosis, if there is something that you don’t feel is quite right, I’d still urge you to check it out with a GP just to rule out anything potentially problematic.

Each of the conditions above needs to be treated individually, with different diets and different protocols, which is why it’s vital to get your poop properly tested. As part of my nutritional therapy practice I offer comprehensive stool tests where you just send off some samples in the post and get the results back in a few weeks. This allows an assessment of your gut flora and digestive enzyme functioning, as well as determining if there is any possible inflammation.