I remember that day very clearly. I’d been dealing with years (upon years upon years) of digestive issues, and had done every test under the sun searching for answers. Finally they told me “it’s IBS.” Now back then, I felt a sense of relief. You have a diagnosis, you can find a treatment…right? Not necessarily.
So you’re diagnosed with IBS and likely wondering what your next step is. Do you try a prescription? Maybe you “deal with” these issues the rest of your life? Do you go on a low FODMAPS diet? I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to live your life managing symptoms, dealing with chronic pain, taking medication, or feeling like your weight is out of your control (because that’s a big issue). But, you do have to get to the root of the problem.
Now, I’m not bashing conventional medicine- it can absolutely be life-saving. But, I am frustrated for myself and the clients I’ve dealt with over the years who feel like their situation is hopeless. In the conventional world, IBS is very misunderstood. You’re told there isn’t a ‘cure’ and sent on your way with experimental medications (trust me, living proof here) and very little explanation.
Think of IBS as analogous to a car accident. If you get in a wreck, the problem isn’t the wreck, right? It’s the fact that someone else hit you, or you were distracted and hit someone else…or whatever. See, when the cops show up and insurance gets involved, the wreck doesn’t matter. It’s “who hit who?” and “what happened?” So why don’t we look at IBS like that? You have these symptoms (the wreck), but what prompted them (the who and what)?
SIBO (aka small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is highly misunderstood and a royal bitch to get rid of. I know, I’ve dealt with it myself, as has my son. It’s very common in fact, and over 80% of those dealing with IBS are dealing with SIBO. Breathe tests are unfortunately not super accurate, however you can get a pretty good idea from a comprehensive stool test if you’re dealing with overgrowth.
When my Dr first told me to cut out tomatoes, chocolate, coffee and citrus, I thought…this is my answer! And I was sent on my merry way. After eliminating those foods and not noticing one difference, I was back to square one. Then a low FODMAPS diet was suggested, but I had a very similar experience- no results.
That being said, food intolerances in general are a major trigger in IBS symptoms. Gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and corn are four of the biggest trigger foods (they turned out to be mine), and for many, an intolerance to one or more will set you into a tailspin. So while low FODMAPS may work miracles for some, or no tomato or citrus for others, it may have little to no impact in everyone else. I suggest an elimination diet to start, since reintroducing foods can give you some major insight.
Candida is similar to SIBO in that it’s an overgrowth, but this time it’s an overgrowth of yeast. While we all have yeast in the gut, when we have too much it becomes an issue. An overgrowth of candida leads to things like gas, bloating, and even constipation and diarrhea (sounds like IBS right?). Most people assume that an overgrowth is caused by sugar, but there are other factors as well: stress, mold, medications, autoimmunity and more. Thankfully this one isn’t too terrible to eliminate, but you will need a comprehensive stool test to see how bad the overgrowth is.
Truth be told, I ignored this one for a longgggggggg time. I mean, how on earth could stress be causing my digestive issues? Well, when you’re stressed, this often impacts the colon by causing it to contract too much or too little, then leading to constipation and/or diarrhea. Which then leads to more stress because your neurotransmitters are affected. And then you’re dealing with a vicious cycle. You can read more about the gut/brain connection HERE. A huge saving grace for me has been deep breathing exercises and meditation. If you aren’t doing those, or anything to promote relaxation, I highly recommend starting there.
Hopefully you’re realizing that IBS is not a diagnosis in itself. It’s a collection of unpleasant symptoms, but there is always a deeper root cause. You just have to do some digging to find it, and it’s not an overnight journey (mine took 20+ years to figure out).