About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Stomach cramps. Abdominal pain. Bloating. Constipation. Diarrhea. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, you could have IBS. Maybe you've even been diagnosed. The fact is, you're not alone. It's believed that about 11% to 15% of the population has IBS. That's about 35 to 50 million Americans!
With that said, it doesn't stop IBS from feeling like a limiting, embarrassing, and isolating condition. In fact, for many people, the symptoms of IBS can make life grind to a halt. And with little clear advice about how to get your symptoms under control, you can end up caught in a cycle of trial and error to better understand what soothes your specific triggers.
IBS is complicated, but it is a recognized disease with real symptoms
What causes IBS is not known and there is no easy test to confirm a diagnosis. Perhaps that's why, on average, it takes about 4 years to be diagnosed, and all the while, its impact on you is very real.
While IBS affects different people in different ways, symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain and/or abdominal discomfort
- Bouts of diarrhea combined with periods of constipation
These symptoms can have a significant impact on your quality of life, often forcing life-limiting changes. If the pain comes suddenly without warning, or you cannot fully control bowel movements, simple things like going to work or eating out can become extremely stressful. It is not surprising that many IBS sufferers feel tired, anxious, and even depressed.
IBS may be caused by a breakdown in communication between your intestines and your brain
Our intestines are packed with nerve endings, and if they get the wrong signals, our brains receive the wrong messages and will react incorrectly; potentially creating a vicious cycle.
One of the main suspects in creating this vicious cycle is our intestinal microbiome (the bacterial resident in our intestines). Many IBS patients have an unbalanced intestinal microbiome which can lead to a dysfunctional intestinal barrier (leaky gut). This can cause a dysfunctional interaction with the nervous system. Therefore, this possible cause and effect relationship between the unbalanced intestinal microbiome and dysfunctional intestinal barrier may be a fundamental cause of IBS.
Talking to your doctor
No one really likes talking about their bathroom habits, but seeing your doctor and getting a diagnosis is the best way to start restoring your digestive health.
In order to diagnose you, your doctor will want to know what symptoms you experience and how long you've been struggling with them. Keeping a symptom diary — noting down when you've felt stomach cramps coming on, or have had a sudden need to use the toilet urgently — can be a great resource during conversations with your doctor, and can help take some of the pressure off you to communicate your IBS experiences without feeling embarrassed.
Diagnosis of IBS
Today, a set of criteria referred to as the Rome IV Criteria for Diagnosing IBS is generally used by doctors to diagnose the condition. After confirming you do not have some other gastrointestinal condition, your doctor will assess whether:
- You suffered from recurrent abdominal pain on average of at least one day per week over the last three months, and
The pain was associated with at least two of the following:
- defecation (either increasing or decreasing pain)
- a change in frequency of defecation
- a change in form (appearance) of stool
Further, symptom onset must have occurred at least six months before diagnosis.
You can manage IBS
Yes, IBS can be managed, but there's no cure and many current approaches for managing symptoms generally do not give you full control. Most patients with IBS try several approaches before they find the one that works best for them. Typical approaches include:
- Changing diet. Avoiding certain foods, increasing fiber intake, and adopting diets such as the popular FODMAP diet.
- Using over-the-counter products, such as probiotics and peppermint oil. Most people cycle through several of these, finding it hard to achieve consistent results.
- Taking prescription drugs. Medication is an answer for some people, but for others, the side effects outweigh the benefits.
- Aiming for a less stressful, healthy lifestyle: Health conditions don't occur in isolation. Avoiding stress where possible and getting enough sleep every night will contribute to your overall health and well-being, helping to manage your IBS.
Holigos® IBS Restore helps restore digestive balance
Many patients with IBS try probiotic supplements and essential oils to help ease their symptoms. Holigos® IBS Restore is a targeted microbiome nutrient that goes beyond symptom relief to the source of your digestive issues. By selectively nourishing the good bacteria in your gut microbiome, Holigos® IBS Restore helps your gut do what it's meant to do to restore digestive balance.