What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Probably one of the most common diagnoses when attending your doctor with digestive symptoms is that of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS in short. But what exactly is IBS?
Around 10% of all doctors visits are related to IBS and over 50% of the gastrointestinal referrals are for IBS.
In the UK alone around 2 million people in the UK were diagnosed with a digestive disorder in 2011, but it is said that closer to a third of the population regularly suffers with digestive illness.
The trouble with IBS is that it is an umbrella term for a number of symptoms such as:
- Fluctuating bowel movements (diarrhea, constipation or both)
- Excess gas, belching
- Abdominal pain and cramping
IBS diagnosis gets us no closer to understanding what the underlying issue is, yet by categorising the symptoms it allows for the prescription of specific medications, all of which simply mask the symptoms.
Naming something gets us no closer to helping people. The truth is that IBS type symptoms can be caused by a huge array of factors, and to treat the body as a whole is generally the only method to address IBS in the long term. The trouble with IBS is that two people may have exactly the same symptoms yet the cause is completely different in each individual and likewise two people can have the same underlying issue yet symptoms are different.
From the point of view of the digestive system, there are three major categories in my view why people get IBS.
1. You are putting something in your mouth that you should not
- Food sensitivities
- Processed foods
2. There is something in you that should not be there
3. You are lacking something that should be there
- Stomach acid
- Digestive enzymes
- Good bacteria
- Bile acids
The potential to cause IBS is not limited to dysfunctions specifically within the digestive system. Remembering that we are a system of interconnecting systems means that we must also consider other contributor areas such as these listed below.
- Sleep – Inadequate or poor quality
- Stress – Exercise, work, money, relationships etc
- What you eat and your eating habits, skipping meals, rushed or lack of mindful eating practices etc.
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