First thing is first. Its important to know that IBS, although very commonly diagnosed, in most cases is not actually your diagnosis, but the term used to describe a hidden underlying cause. IBS is a broad term used to describe a person who experiences gut symptoms with no answers as to why. When your GP has gone through all of the usual testing and ruled out other gut diseases, you are diagnosed with IBS ( in other words diagnosis of exclusion) which is a name used for what is believed to be a functional gut disorder.
Ibs aka Irritable bowel syndrome may cause diarrhoea, constipation or a mix of both. It may also commonly come with symptoms of gut pain and bloating. When all other gut diseases are ruled out, this leads to the diagnosis of IBS. In other words ‘we really don’t know what it is or what’s causing it’. Diet and lifestyle factors including controlling stress may play an important role in management, yet for many, diet alone is just not enough.
So if IBS is your diagnosis, should you just take that and run with it?
Like with anything, there is always an underlying cause. If IBS is your diagnosis, its time to dig deep into the hidden underlying cause that you may have not found yet. IBS is thought to be functional disorder affecting the gut. Some of the common functional issues that may be present with IBS include insufficient pancreatic and stomach acid, poor liver function, neurotransmitter imbalances, severe nutrient deficiencies and infection.
The thing is with IBS, you can eat healthy, yet still have symptoms. Frustrating right??
This is the sign, its time to dig that little bit deeper to find out what is really going on. This may require further functional lab testing to find the true cause. Continue reading below for some of the most common hidden underlying causes that your GP may not even consider.
So What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Caused By?
The first thing we may often look at is SIBO aka Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Studies are now showing that over 50% of cases of IBS have a connection with SIBO as the underlying cause. SIBO although not talked about so much in the conventional medical space, SIBO is commonly seen in the functional medicine space. SIBO occurs when there is an imbalance in the healthy bacteria naturally living in your gut. SIBO causes an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. While this bacteria is not pathogenic but perfectly healthy bacteria that has just found a home for its self in the wrong location. The majority of our bacteria should be located in the large intestine, with only small amounts found in the small intestine. The IBS like symptoms can occur when there is too much bacteria in the small intestine.
Sibo may cause a host of other health problems as follows:
- Alternating bowel motions
- Bloating/stomach cramps
- A lot of wind
- Food sensitivities
- Low B12 and Iron
- Unintentional Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Some of the most common causes of SIBO:
- Development after a case of infectious gastroenteritis. (food poisoning).
- Medication Use- most commonly Proton Pump Inhibitors used to treat heartburn, NSAIDS to treat pain and the Oral Contraceptive Pill.
- Surgeries- C-Section, bowel surgery, bariatric surgery, or any surgery that may cause scarring and adhesions.
- Stress- long standing chronic stress can have a major impact on overall gut health.
When you hear the word parasites, it may be something you associate with something you believe is more common in third world countries. Yet parasites are more common than you think, among people living in the western world. Many of us have parasites living in our guts, without even knowing it. For many, they may not cause any symptoms, while others parasites can cause real harm.
So What Are The Most Common Parasites Linked With IBS?
Blastocystis– a protazoan parasite that may be found in a population of healthy people causing no problems, yet in others it may cause an acute infection, that may lead to the development of IBS in some individuals. Blastocystis is usually contracted through overseas travel and unsanitisation. Newer research is coming out suggesting that Blastocystitis may not necessarily be pathogenic in nature meaning it may not need to be treated if present in people with no symptoms. Yet Blastocystitis found in people with IBS, may have an effect on IBS symptoms in which case this parasite may need to be treated.
Cryptosporidum is another parasite part of the protazoan family. It is commonly seen in IBS patients even after parasite clearance treatment has occurred. How it affects symptoms will depend on the immune system of an individual. Cyptosporidum may cause the most problems in immunocompromised individuals, children and the elderly. Cyptosporidum can be found in water supplies, food and soil and can be passed on through surfaces that have been contaminated with faeces.
Giardia spp most commonly contracted through water contamination and also food. Can also be contracted through person to person contact. IBS can result years later following infection along with chronic fatigue like symptoms.
Parasites can be detected through a stool test. While you may be able to get a stool test done through your regular GP, the testing method is stool culture, this will not be anywhere near as comprehensive, while it will only test for a small amount of parasites only.
I highly recommend the GI Map, a functional comprehensive stool test that tests for parasites, bacteria, fungal, viruses. inflammation, immune function, pancreatic function, and occult blood. The DNA/PCR based technology and assay is the most advanced stool testing on the market and can be ordered through any functional medicine lab and interpreted by your functional medicine or natural health care practitioner.
Is IBS an Autoimmune Disease? Is there an Autoimmune Connection?
Recent research has now found that there may be a possible autoimmune component behind IBS, in particular with individuals with diarrhoea predominant IBS.
What does this mean? Autoimmune IBS is thought to develop as a post infectious condition following a bout of food poisoning. Research shows that over 60% of cases of IBS that are associated with diarrhoea may be post infectious. Autoimmunity develops after an insult that affects the immune system. The immune system becomes dysregulated and the body starts attacking healthy tissue. In this case it attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing damage to the gut.
Wondering if your IBS has an autoimmune component behind it? Australian’s now have access to the NEW IBS Smart blood test to help them determine the underlying cause of their IBS. It has also been available in the USA for a few years.
IBS Smart is a simple blood test that can be used to determine the underlying cause of your IBS. IBS Smart looks for antibodies anti-CdtB and anti-vinculin which are markers indicating there is damage to the migrating motor complex. The migrating motor complex plays an important role in motility and if not working properly can affect severity of IBS symptoms. While you may need practitioner approval to order an IBS Smart Test, you can go here to order your test.
Take Away Message:
‘IBS is not your diagnosis but an term used to describe a hidden underlying cause that you are yet to discover’.
If you have been diagnosed with IBS, you do not have to suffer. By getting to the root cause of your IBS and treating the root cause rather than just trying to bandaid the symptoms, will allow your body to actually heal and live digestive symptom free.
If you have never been tested for the above possible causes, you can book an appointment with your natural health care practitioner, who will be able to assist you with this.
If you are someone who suffers from IBS and would like to get to the bottom of the underlying cause so you can better manage your symptoms, I would love to chat. To book your complimentary discovery call today you can click here.
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Until next time.
Here’s to good health and happiness x