IBS and Gut Issues are No Laughing Matter

‘Help! My gut’s a mess! How do I treat IBS?’

When you receive an IBS diagnosis, it can be extremely frustrating. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a blanket term covering a multitude of digestive and bowel conditions with no single laboratory test to confirm the condition. Symptoms vary so much from person to person and at different times that it becomes difficult to diagnose, with many people waiting years before finally receiving their IBS diagnosis.

When it comes to IBS, a personalised treatment is critically important. Every person brings a unique set of symptoms, personal history and genetics. 

There is no one size fits all solution.

With one in five people in developed countries affected by IBS, and many presenting with symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, loss of libido and body image issues, what can we do to restore digestive health and boost overall well-being?

Scientific research tells us that the two main causes of IBS are food allergies and overgrowth of gut bacteria, but according to Dr Mark Hyman - Medical Director at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and #1New York Times Bestselling Author - there may be many other causes including a lack of digestive enzymes, parasites in the gut, yeast overgrowth, zinc or magnesium deficiency and heavy metal toxicity. 

As Functional Medicine points out, the key to successfully treating IBS is to identify the underlying root causes.

For many years as a Nutrition & Weight Loss Specialist and Functional Medicine practitioner, I’ve used the 5R approach as a tool to treat all kinds of digestive complaints, but with specific adaptations to account for each patient’s unique symptoms and lifestyle. 

Once the root causes have been identified, the 5R approach consists of five stages to treat and repair gut damage and imbalance:

  • Remove the offending food and lifestyle triggers. Laboratory testing can be useful in some cases, for example: to diagnose coeliac disease, parasites, lactose intolerance and auto-immune conditions. Keeping a food diary is a useful tool in understanding the foods, ingredients or lifestyle habits that affect your personal symptoms. During this Removal stage, it’s important to include foods that support the elimination of toxins and waste. For example: drink warm water with lemon and eat plenty of green leafy vegetables. 

  • Replace the nutrients required to optimise digestion. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables, soluble fibre to facilitate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and specific raw foods to aid digestion - such as pineapple which contains the digestive enzyme bromelain. If you have low stomach acid and leaky gut, ensuring you consume sufficient amounts of the mineral zinc will speed up your recovery. 

  • Repopulate your intestines with good bacteria. Probiotics are essential for the optimum digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients. Studies have shown they even play a role in mood, behaviour and psychological health. Adding fermented foods (under supervision from a qualified nutrition practitioner) such as homemade yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha will help to rebalance the gut flora and restore normal, healthy digestive function. 

  • Repair the delicate mucous membrane of the gut lining. The central nervous system has a direct effect on gastrointestinal function which means that the way you deal with stress in your life is just as important as the dietary changes you make. Ensure you eat adequate sources of high quality protein, plus vitamin D, vitamin A and zinc - all of which are important for gut healing. While food can be used as the main source of nutrients, some supplements may be required to achieve optimum health, depending on individual symptoms.

  • Rebalance your mind and body. Practicing mindful eating - including chewing food properly, sitting in a calm environment and avoiding distractions such as television or mobile devices at mealtimes - can go a long way to improving digestive issues. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, meditation, breathing techniques and hypnotherapy have proven to be beneficial for IBS.

A healthy digestive system is the foundation of a healthy, vibrant body and improvements in symptoms of IBS can be felt very quickly once appropriate treatment is started. 

If you’re ready to say goodbye to abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation, skin conditions and food sensitivities, visit pippacampbellhealth.com for details of 1-1 consultations and programmes to help you resolve your digestive conditions and live a healthier, happier life.

HealthPippa Campbell