April is World IBS Month. As a Nutritionist who loves all things gut and hormones I had to take this opportunity to bring some awareness to this condition.
Personally I was diagnosed with IBS in my early 20’s and was told that it was just something I was going to have to live with. And live with it I did for most of the next 15 years. Although ‘live with’ could be the wrong choice of words, because anyone with IBS would know that there are times when you actually don’t live. It is more a case of existing, of working life around your symptoms.
The question I would like to pose is IBS the condition or the symptom?
What is IBS?
I will start by quickly touching on what is IBS?
IBS stand for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects the functioning of the the bowel. So common that between 10 and 15% of people worldwide suffer with it. Those that have IBS experience a range of symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, cramps, gas, constipation and/or diarrhoea. These symptoms vary from person to person and also in intensity and duration. Interestingly IBS affects more women than men.
Why the question?
Now I am not posing the question of IBS being the condition or the symptom to diminish IBS in anyway. As someone who was diagnosed with this in her early 20’s I understand how very real this condition is. In fact I’m pretty sure I had IBS from childhood.
The reason I want to pose this question is so we can begin to open up the discussion on treatment and outcomes for those that diagnosed with it.
If IBS is considered a symptom would we have better treatments available for it?
If you look up IBS you will often find that it is stated there is not known cause or cure. And whilst I cannot say definitely that you can be cured of IBS, you most certainly do not have to live with the fluctuating symptoms and restrictions on your life.
Being diagnosed with IBS occurs after everything else has been ruled out – you’re not coeliac, you don’t have an inflammatory bowel disease and there are no infections.
From here you will be given some pretty basic guidelines such as avoid foods that cause symptoms and a medication list – imodium to suppress diarrhoea, buscopan for bloating and cramping and laxiatives for constipation.
I work in what is known as the natural health sphere. And honestly the fact that we have to define it as natural health is frustrating as it often carries with it negative connotations with somewhat hippy vibes. But I can tell you after studying for 3 years exactly how the body works there is nothing hippy about it. Any way I digress…
Working in the natural health sphere we are trained to treat the root causes of what our clients are presenting with. It is actually one of the parts of my job that I love – Being a detective and working out what is happening for my client.
When I see clients that have been given the diagnosis of IBS they have often been suffering with it for many years. One because it took them quite a while to get diagnosed and two because they followed the suggestions of reducing certain foods and band-aiding their symptoms with the medications.
But that is exactly what it is – a band-aid solution. As someone who has had to jump on planes and give presentations during a IBS flare I can honestly say there are times when imodium is needed just to make it through the day.
What is doesn’t address is why is the constipation and or diarrhoea occurring? Why is it that some days you are doubled over in pain or look 5 months pregnant?
So how could looking at IBS as the symptom rather than the condition help?
Honestly this is something we do all the time in natural health. But I know it’s not as common in the wider health community.
If we look at IBS as a symptom of say our nervous system or our upper digestive system or even our hormones then maybe the treatments for IBS would be aimed here rather than just trying to stop the cramping with some buscopan.
This really is just a different way of looking a the root causes of your IBS. But when you pose it as a question that challenges the way something is currently viewed it is often met with a discussion and open mind to change the way we currently do something.
If you would like help with your IBS or other digestive symptoms please book a 20 minute free consultation and let’s get some relief for you.