Do I have IBS? What is IBS? | Kyle Byron Nutrition Blog
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Sep 21 2022

Do I have IBS? What is IBS?

If you’re reading this, your guts aren’t quite right. Sorry to hear that! This article can help. We will give you some advice that might make you feel better right away, teach you more about IBS, and how our expert Victoria the RD helps clients with gut issues.

 

First, let’s make sure you are safe. General recommendations are to seek emergency medical care if/when:

 

  • Your abdominal pain is sudden, severe or does not ease within 30 minutes
  • You’re experiencing blood in your stool
  • You feel continuous, severe abdominal pain, or abdominal pain accompanied by continuous vomiting

What is IBS?

Our clients often wonder, “Do I have IBS?” or “How serious is IBS?”

 

IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome and it’s basically when you’re in pain and your poop is different than it used to be.

 

In the past any digestive issue that wasn’t Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis was called IBS. But now there’s specific diagnostic criteria set by the Rome Foundation (a non-profit organization creating evidence-based guidelines and education to help those with gastro-intestinal disorders).

 

According to the Rome IV criteria, IBS is defined as:

Recurrent abdominal Pain

  • On average at least 1 day per week in the past 3 months (with symptom onset at least 6 months prior)
  • Symptoms are associated with 2 or more of the following:
    • Pain related to defacation
    • Pain associated with a change in frequency of stool (bowel movements)
    • Pain associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool

Changes in bowel habits may include symptoms of diarrhea or constipation or mixed sensations that alternate between diarrhea and constipation.

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IBS Symptoms

They vary from person to person but may include any of the following:

 

  • Gas, bloating, cramps, and/or abdominal pain related to bowel movements
  • Irregular bowel patterns
  • Diarrhea or constipation or alternating between both
  • Mucus present around or within the stools
  • Heartburn, nausea

 

IBS is unlikely to increase the risk for the development of cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis), but if you aren’t 100% certain what’s going on with your guts, please get checked by your doctor and contact Doug for an assessment.

 

While IBS is not something that can be cured, the good news is with the right help, you can find improvement with your symptoms and improve your quality of life! IBS affects 10% to 15% of the population but many more people will have some other gut pain/discomfort.

What Causes IBS?

With your exact case it may be impossible to say what caused it, but there are many risk factors:

  • Prior intestinal infections including food poisoning or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal surgeries
  • Stress
  • Food intolerances or sensitivities
  • Certain mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and somatic disorder
  • Antibiotic use and/or other over-the-counter medications

 

When we have the above risk factors, our guts can start to malfunction. We may experience:

  • Gut dysmotility (changes in bowel habits)
  • Gut hyper-sensitivity (heightened sensitivity & pain)
  • Gut-brain dysfunction (disruption in the normal cooperativeness between the gut and the brain, each affecting the other, a.k.a. “gut-brain axis”)
  • Gut barrier dysfunction (a.k.a. “leaky gut”)

How Do I Know What’s Going on With my Guts?

 

It can take a medical team and a nutrition expert to help some of the complicated cases

WE RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING:

 

  1. Book an appointment with your doctor and ask for a referral to see a GI specialist. That is going to take a few months, and neither of these health professionals are experts in nutrition. So…
  2. In the meantime, book with Doug Cook, RD. As a clinical dietitian, Doug can give you customized nutritional advice to help improve your symptoms and quality of life while ensuring you’re getting the nutrition you need for healing and recovery.

 

WHEN GETTING TO THE ROOT CAUSE OF YOUR ABDOMINAL PAIN, YOU AND YOUR DOCTOR WILL WANT TO RULE OUT:

 

  • Acute food poisoning
  • Crohn’s
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Food intolerances/allergies
  • Parasitic infections
  • Other gastrointestinal disorders or diseases

 

Don’t be shy. We talk about poop every day. 50 years ago, this was taboo, and millions of people suffered in silence. Don’t stay silent about your gut pain. Let us help you.

What Can I Do TODAY?

We’ve come a long way in the management of IBS!

 

Doug remembers back when all we offered patients was “work on stress reduction, eat more fiber, watch your intake of caffeine/chocolate and fried/fatty foods”. While those things may help, wow, how things have changed – for the better.

 

The gastrointestinal tract is a VERY complex system.

 

It is not simply an organ of elimination. It has muscles, tons of neurons, a living ecosystem inhabited by trillions of microorganisms (microbiota), is influenced by hormones and neurotransmitters and it takes a lot of ‘abuse’.

 

Everything you eat, drink, and ingest passes over the surface of your digestive tract from tip to tail; it is very susceptible to damage & irritation, and is exposed to nearly countless ingested microorganisms, pathogens and tons of food-related antigens (proteins that the immune system has to deal with).

 

There are also plenty of medications that negatively impact both the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and its function too.

STRATEGIES TO HELP IBS

 

  • Find ways to relax & minimize stress
  • Cook more homemade meals when you can
  • Keep a diary of what you eat and any symptoms you get – try to avoid things that trigger your IBS
  • Pass on processed foods as much as possible
  • Focus on good sleep
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY TO GET SOME RELIEF

 

  • Make sure you’re chewing your food to ‘liquid or mash’ consistency
  • Avoid raw vegetables as they’re harder to digest; eat cooked vegetables only in the meantime
  • Avoid fried foods and other foods higher in fat
  • Consider limiting caffeine containing beverages and chocolate
  • Avoid alcohol and carbonated beverages
  • Don’t eat too quickly
  • Avoid or minimize your intake of spicy foods

Some of these ideas may seem simple, but many people require coaching from a Dietitian like Doug. He can help you prioritize what to work on, based on your exact situation. Doug can also explain in greater detail the recommendations, and help you implement the changes.

 

Here are some of things Doug would assess:

  • Lifestyle inventory (stress, activity, sleep, etc.)
  • Bowel habits, stool quality & routine
  • Nutritional status
    • Adequate intake of nutrients
    • Food prep
    • Food triggers, allergies & sensitivities (including FODMAPs)
  • Medication use
  • Indication for antispasmodics, anti-diarrheal, antiflatulents, and targeted supplementation
  • Stress reduction & psycho-social counselling where appropriate

 

IBS is a chronic condition but successful management of it is possible, it’s not something you ‘just have to live with’. You may or may not need the help of your doctor but it’s better to be safe than sorry. We can help with the nutrition and lifestyle side of things, which is extremely important.

 

Treatment is highly individualized, there’s no one-size-fits all.

 

Many find significant relief of symptoms with huge improvements in their quality of life. Others will continue to experience some symptoms to varying degrees but the good news is that symptoms typically do not get worse.

 

With successful treatment, up to one-third (33%) of patients become symptom-free.

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Kyle

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