Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects 15 percent of the UK population and is the second only to the common cold as the leading cause of missed work. Conventional treatments often don’t work, as they’re addressing the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. This, of course, means that if you don’t know what’s causing your problems you’ll need to keep taking medication to get by on a daily basis.
As a sufferer of Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), I’ve been through the whole gamut of checking for leaky gut, is it histamine intolerance or coeliac or do I simply need to see a psychiatrist due to stress? You get the idea and I’m sure that you’ll have plenty more to add to this list.
My husband and I concluded that stress was not the underlying issue. I also decided that long-term medication was never the way forward. Why keep doing what you’re doing and hoping the outcome will change? Taking conventional treatments to suppress the symptoms whilst continuing life as before is surely a futile cycle doomed to fail.
Do you really want to spend the rest of your days taking anti-diarrhoeal drugs, anti-spasmodics, antibiotics, anti-depressants, anti-histamines? You’re getting my anti-message here, I hope. Whilst I can’t argue against these drugs in their place, shouldn’t we be seeking the cause of the problem first? Add to this the fact that many of these medications come with their own set of side effects, such as gas and bloating, and you find yourself looking for a different solution.
That’s why I set about finding the underlying cause of my “IBS” and what better place to start than with the very stuff that has daily contact with your gut … FOOD. Food, food, food. That stuff that everyone needs and that can harm or heal. I look at food as medicine. Chosen wisely you can help bring your body back to health alongside your GP recommendations. Let’s hope you get to the stage that I have where your doctor says those lovely words, “I think you can come off that medication now”.
But how do you find the underlying causes of your IBS? And it is yours … this is a very individual disease … more of a syndrome really, in that there is usually a collection of symptoms with a number of possible causes.
So let’s take a look at the three that are often missed:
1. Gut flora overgrown, disrupted or infected
It’s well known that if your gut flora are happy then you’ll be in better health.
There are broadly three key issues here:
- Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth – SIBO), which is usually treated by antibiotics. Drugs such as rifaximin and neomycin are commonly used to treat this and do have a positive effect. But does the SIBO cause IBS or vice-versa?
- Disrupted gut flora (dysbiosis) where the community of microbes in your gut is out of balance. Prebiotics and probiotics can be a great help if this is the cause. Many also find that a low FODMAP diet has some benefits. For more information see my blog FODMAPs made simple.
- Gut infections: the gut is naturally resistant to infection due to the acid, which kills potential pathogens. However, modern lifestyle such as chronic stress, poor diet or acid-suppressing drugs all have a compromising effect on this defense system. For example, food poisoning by Campylobacter has been shown to lead to chronic IBS in as many as 10% of cases. Some parasites can also cause IBS.
2. Leaky gut
One key role for the gastrointestinal tract is to keep pathogens, undigested food particles and bacterial toxins from entering the body. If these leak through the gut wall into the bloodstream and immune response is triggered causing persistent inflammation throughout the body. IBS is associated with an increase in gut permeability.
3. Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) and other food intolerances
NCGS is a reaction to gluten that is not autoimmune (coeliac disease) or allergic (wheat allergy). You’ll see the same symptoms … gas, bloating, abdominal pain, changes in stool frequency … as IBS. Also common to both NCGS and IBS are “brain fog” and chronic fatigue.
Both gluten and wheat sensitivity and other food intolerances are common contributors to IBS. Though these could be symptoms of other issues, such as SIBO.
The best way to check whether gluten is contributing to or causing your IBS is to talk to your doctor. Follow a simple elimination diet … avoid all gluten foods, then reintroduce them into the diet one by one. You’ll see fairly quickly whether there is need for further investigation.
A simple change in your diet can make great changes to your health. If you’ve been suffering enough to keep looking for solutions to your IBS, this could be the place to start.
There are plenty of gluten free recipes on our site http://www.mannavida.co.uk/recipes/
Our World Award winning bread kits are delicious, nutritious and simple to make. http://www.mannavida.co.uk/products/ Gluten free doesn’t need to be difficult or tasteless.
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