• Dr. Caroline Ricker

IBS…or is it just BS? – What you need to know about your irritable bowel syndrome!

Updated: Feb 23

Anyone who is eating the standard American diet (SAD) has generally at some point suffered from constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. When we eat an unhealthy diet, we expect these types of things to pop up, and then we expect them to go away.

But what if you are one out of every ten people who has these symptoms almost all the time? What if you have these symptoms even when you are trying to eat healthy? Should you really be dealing with constant feelings of discomfort, wondering which foods might agree with you this week and where the nearest bathroom is everywhere you go?

Chances are if this is how you are feeling then you might be dealing with a condition commonly known as IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is characterized by symptoms such as frequent gas, constipation, diarrhea (these might interchange), bloating, and overall abdominal discomfort. Many folks head to their general doctor, list of symptoms in hand, hoping for answers, only to be handed this particular diagnosis. Triumphant that they have a diagnosable condition they ask “what causes it, what’s the cure?” only to be puzzled when their physician says “well, we’re not really sure.”

Sounds familiar? If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS but haven’t been given many real ways to deal with your issues, you aren’t alone. The “diagnosis” is really just a description of the problem, and unfortunately in the system of modern medicine there are no known causes or cures. The reason for this is that you can’t really find a cure for a diagnosis that isn’t really a diagnosis at all!

Mirriam-Webster defines a syndrome as: A group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition[1]. Basically what they’re saying is, when a large number of people are reporting similar symptoms and a cause cannot be found, it is labeled as a syndrome.

You didn’t catch a syndrome, you weren’t born with a syndrome, a syndrome is just a blanket diagnosis that is given when the actual diagnosis is unknown but you can be grouped in with a bunch of other people who have a similar set of symptoms with an unknown cause. The real issue with this kind of diagnosis is that a cause (or causes) can usually be found if you look in the right places, it just might not always be a single cause or the same cause for everyone with those symptoms. However, when doctors start seeing this syndrome as a disease, they generally work to treat the symptoms and forget that they haven’t looked at the cause!

So what can cause IBS?

One of the main reasons that syndromes such as irritable bowel or chronic fatigue can be difficult to treat is that there are a lot of different things that can lead to the same symptoms. Luckily, to a practitioner trained in functional medicine, there are some main things that cover a large majority of patients’ underlying bowel problems and they aren’t that hard to uncover.

Cause vs. Trigger

While they often feel like the same thing, it is important to understand the difference between a cause and a trigger. A cause of a condition is something that actually leads to a breakdown of a body system causing a disease or issue. A trigger is something that causes symptoms to occur once the system is already damaged by the cause. This is important because often simply eliminating your triggers won’t cure the cause. This means that the second you reintroduce the trigger, the same symptoms will probably appear, and in the meantime, you will likely be developing new triggers as well.

Common Causes of IBS

Food Allergies or Intolerance

Parasitic Infection

Emotional Stress leading to nervous system imbalance

Low Stomach Acid

Digestive enzyme deficiency

Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Common Triggers of IBS

Food allergies or intolerance

Emotional Stress

Hormonal Imbalance

I hope that after reading through this information a light bulb might have turned on as to why your IBS symptoms never really seem fully under control and why you might be feeling like you’ll be dealing with this disease for the rest of your life. I’m here to give you permission to get excited about recovery. There ARE ways to eliminate IBS and all the misery that comes with it, you just have to know where to look.

The absolute best way to get rid of IBS is to seek out a well versed functional medicine doctor who has been working with IBS patients for a while. This particular type of doctor will help search your gut to find out which one (or two or three) of the common IBS causes you are dealing with and give you some natural ways to eliminate the damage and start on your path to health!

In the meantime, here are some helpful tips on how to limit the effects of your current IBS

Limit the Effects of Stress – While we recognize that things like jobs or family that may be causing us stress are pretty darn hard to eliminate, we can try and decrease the impact this stress has on our systems. Take some time to journal, meditate, practice gratitude, listen to a positive podcast or use a simple breathing exercise. Doing one or more of these things may just mean the difference between a system meltdown or not having an episode.

Ditch the Processed Foods – I’m not huge on “diets” or everyone just blanket eliminating food groups because I feel digestion is very individual, but heavily processed artificial foods are just plain bad for the system. Cutting out things that come in packages with long lists of crazy ingredients can cut down on the load your digestive system has to bear.

Drink More Water – Ensuring that your body and digestive tract are well hydrated will keep you as regulated as possible as is crucial for health.

Get on the fast track to health! Find someone near you who can help lead you down the path of true recovery by addressing your causes, not just your triggers and symptoms!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

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