Healing IBS with nutrition

How to Heal IBS

Got IBS?  Many do but aren’t sure why, where it came from, or what to do about it.  Many more have it and are struggling to get through each day.  They’re either running to the bathroom every time they eat.  Or they have horrible constipation because of it.

Here’s the good news…you can heal IBS.  And the bad news…IBS isn’t the cause.  Something else is causing IBS.

In this blog, we’re going to talk about exactly what IBS is, how you come to get it, what the common symptoms are, diagnosis of, and what you can do to heal yourself.  Let’s jump to it, shall we?

What is IBS?

IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome.  Basically, your butt is mad at you.  But not really 😛

There are two types of IBS.  IBS-D and IBS-C.  D is for diarrhea (the more common form of IBS) and C is for constipation.  Some teeter between the two types and some only have one type.  About 15% of the population has IBS.  Most IBS sufferers are women.

IBS is a catch-all.  Or a diagnosis of exclusion.  If you’re having bowel issues and but your doc can’t find a solid reason why they will usually diagnose you with IBS.  I don’t particularly like this approach.  There is a reason why you’re having bowel issues…they need to dig deeper to find the cause.  IBS can mask a bigger issue like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or food allergies/sensitivities.

Causes

Like I said, IBS is a disease of exclusion.  But there’s always an underlying reason.  Why that underlying reason isn’t found, diagnosed, and addressed is beyond me.  I also feel this approach is dangerous.  You could be missing something that’ll cause major issues with your health down the line.

One of the biggest causes of IBS is stress.  I’ve talked about the gut-brain axis before here.  With my IBS clients, we take a deep dive into their history.  Sometimes we’ll find they live a high-stress lifestyle or have a demanding job.  After chatting for a bit, we are able to link the two together.  By way of the vagus nerve, stress can kick off IBS.  You’ll know if stress is your primary cause because stressful situations will bring IBS back to the front lines.

Another common cause is mood disorders.  This is right in line with stress.  Anxiety and/or depression can cause changes to your bowels.  Definitely refer to my previous blog of the gut-brain axis for this one.

Food is a big cause.  Food can feed the gut or cause issues with the gut.  Many people are consuming foods their body finds offensive.  The body can rebel by showing symptoms of IBS.  Doing a little food sensitivity testing and cleaning up the gut will nip this issue in the bud.

Hormones are the last cause.  Ever wondered why you get diarrhea right around your period?  (Sorry guys!)  It’s true though.  Ahh…one of life’s greatest mysteries.  NO MORE!  Now you know what’s kicking that off.  Your hormones are changing before, during, and after your cycle.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms for IBS will vary from person to person.  It’s like any other disease or issue…you can only have 1-2 symptoms or you can have them all.  Here are the more common symptoms of IBS:

Diarrhea

Abdominal pain

Bloating

Painful gas

Rectal bleeding

There are definitely other symptoms as well.  These are the most common ones.

Treatment for IBS

IBS can lead to things like dehydration and nutrient deficiencies if not treated.  Physicians generally provide you with medications to either stop diarrhea or keep the bowels moving if you have IBS-C.  But that’s where it stops.

These medications make my job a bit harder.  I approach IBS from a nutritional standpoint.  If you’re using prescription medications to control your bowels…it’s hard to tell if what we’re doing is working.

With that said, I completely understand why the medications are necessary at times. Use them as a short-term remedy while you’re healing yourself from the inside out.

Nutritional Approach to Healing IBS

Here’s my approach.  I like to have individuals follow a low FODMAP diet.  It’s a shitty diet.  It’s filled with starches and junk.  Everything everyone has told you about nutrition goes out the window.  Eat all the potatoes and white rice.  Seriously.

If it’s a junk diet, why do I use it?  I never thought you’d ask.  It takes the edge off by allowing you to breathe.  So you don’t worry about running to the loo all day!  It usually takes 1-2 weeks of following low FODMAP to start feeling better.  If you’re pooping everything out, you’re absorbing nothing!  Helloooooo malnutrition!  We need the bowels to calm down so you can feel better…and the real work can begin.

While you’re navigating the low FODMAP world, we find the underlying cause.  What is it that caused you to initially experience IBS?  We will explore through your medical history.  If I suspect food allergies or sensitivities are at play, we will go down that route by way of testing.  We may do some fecal testing to determine your bacterial balance in your gut.

If stress is the culprit, we will work to reduce or control the stress response in your body.  Maybe we’ll test your cortisol levels to see how those look throughout the day.  Or maybe we’ll go straight into adaptogenic herbs to help curb the stress response.  We will definitely explore meditation, belly breathing, and yoga.

Probiotics are definitely an area we will explore.  Even if we don’t do fecal testing, the diarrhea likely caused some bacterial balance issues.  We’ll try out a few different probiotics or get you eating fermented foods.  Prebiotics are something we remove.  Why?  They make IBS worse.  Things like superfood green powders and prebiotics in protein powders are a no-go.

Know this…

You do not have to live with IBS. It can be healed. In fact…I highly recommend you seek a nutritionist if you have IBS. Get help so your gut issues don’t develop into a greater health issue down the line.

Are you battling IBS?  What’s one thing you’ve found to be helpful in your healing journey??

Did you know I help clients all across the US?  No need to live in Texas to hire me to help you!

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Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS

I'm Sunny! I'm a board-certified clinical nutritionist with an MS in Clinical Nutrition. I help individuals reduce fatigue, eliminate bloat, and lose weight by healing the digestive tract and balancing hormones. I provide individual and group nutrition consultations nationwide. Join my closed Facebook group today! https://www.facebook.com/groups/140571826548289/

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