The following blog post is for informational purposes only. You should always seek help from your doctor first and together you can work on solving any health problems you may have.
I.B.S. aka Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The name even scares the poop out of me…no pun intended and this blog is full of them. IBS, generally effects the large intestines, however if something is irritated further up the chain the side effects can move downward. Symptoms such as cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation can make our social life somewhat challenging and all get labeled IBS if tests come back clean. Many times symptoms come and go which makes us even more lazy in determining the under lying cause(s). Several years ago I started having intestinal issues. Anyway, without going into the gory details it wasn’t pleasant by any means. After a while my wife was ready to have me sleep on the balcony (not the couch), so I decided to go to the doctor to find out what was actually going on.
I had numerous tests for possible causes, because IBS is usually diagnosed after doctors rule out other diseases. So there really is no definitive tests for it. There is a possible test on the horizon, which identifies certain antibodies responsible for IBS. Until that becomes the widely accepted procedure for a diagnosis most doctors will run you through a battery of tests like I had below to rule things out:
H-pylori– a bacteria that causes ulcers.
Parasites– this can be ingested from any restaurant or produce that isn’t cleaned properly.
Polyps– small cysts in your colon that only can be diagnosed via a scope.
Inability to digest fats– the infamous skid marks in the bowl are a tell tale sign.
Auto-immune blood work up– tests for diseases such as Crohn’s and Celiac (Scope is needed).
Stool test to look for Blood- cancer possibility.
Blood tests– to look at my blood cells both red and white.
Pregnancy test- obviously I am not a women but maybe you are pregnant and don’t know it? Some women remain pretty thin!
SIBO– Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.
So after a battery of tests the doctor told me I had IBS…..Really??? How could that be? I eat really good with the exception of an occasional Dove bar…or tub of frozen yogurt. So being a type A personality, I went on a mission to figure it out. Lets be honest though guys and girls, doctors save lives and treat an immediate threat. They have so many patients and only spend 15-20 minutes with each of us. So it’s really hard for them to determine or diagnose what the under lying issues may be causing our “bathroom blues”. So we all need to be our own advocates and learn as much as we can so we can work with our doctors.
The process for me started with an elimination diet but not just any elimination diet, it was an A.I.P plan-google it- (Auto-immune -protocol) and slowly I started to feel much better. I used a modified version of the Auto-immune protocol and It was really hard to stay honest on but it really helped.
After a month or so on the plan I was back to normal. So what was the cause of my “bad ass”? First and foremost my gut needed to be healed. As we get older, years of prescription drugs, antibiotics, alcohol, stress and other things weaken our digestive tract. THE AIP diet basically gives your stomach a chance to heal itself. There are many reasons for having an upset stomach or acute gastric problems and many of us are lucky enough to know what the cause is, such as an alcohol filled night, a Las Vegas all you can eat buffet or too many hot and spicy foods. Unfortunately, for some of us we don’t know the cause and it becomes a chronic issue that we tend to accept and live with. The problem is that it’s usually caused by some sort of inflammatory reaction to something that causes us to have symptoms that are ongoing. We really need to be proactive in trying to determine the cause.
Once we reach puberty our immune system moves downward and takes up residence in our stomach. This is because the thymus gland (which initiates our immune system) basically goes on a life long vacation. So we rely heavily on our gut bacteria and it’s structural integrity to keep us healthy and free of disease and more importantly cancer free. If the inflammation goes unchecked for years it can lead to more serious problems later on. Look at it this way. If you have a cut on your arm and you keep scratching the scab off what do you think will eventually happen? The problem with our stomach issues is that technically it is “out of site so it’s out of mind”…..until you have to suddenly run to the bathroom at the worst possible time.
My issues turned out to be a combination of sorts, consisting of too much fiber, protein drinks and protein bars all of which contain sugar alcohols which can be really hard on the gut. I was also taking in more than enough fiber. That combined with protein bars which are compact amounts of protein, carbs and fats- all pressed into a chewy brick put my stomach and bowels in a state of emergency! In addition, I had developed food sensitivities to several things I had no clue I was reacting to such as, almonds, garlic, onions, eggs and too many fluids with my meals. Many of the foods I was having trouble with are high in sulfur and some also fell into the FODMAPS category- see #14 below. In addition, I was having trouble with certain fats, especially avocado-see #2 below. On top of all this, I was not chewing my food enough because I was always in a hurry. What a pain in the butt!
IBS I believe can be cured on our own without resorting to using prescription drugs which only masks the symptoms and sometimes can cause other problems. So I compiled a list of things that may be causing you to have symptoms indicative of IBS.
NOTE: Again…..What you are reading is for informational purposes ONLY. I STRONGLY advise seeing your doctor to rule out any serious medical issues that may be causing it, especially if you are experiencing pain that will not pass, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, experiencing weight loss or rectal bleeding. Even if you are not experiencing any of these symptoms you should still go get checked out. It is not wise to try and self diagnose. If the doctor tells you that you have IBS, which is a term used when they have no clue what is wrong, then you are free to try and solve it on your own. Just be sure you keep in touch with your doctor so they are aware of what you are doing to resolve the problem. I recommend finding a good natural or preventative physician, like a doctor of osteopathic medicine or integrated medicine that specialize in gastroenterology to help guide you.
These are some possible causes:
- Drinking too many fluids with meals. This causes your digestive enzymes to get diluted and interfere with proper digestion and absorption. Food will pass through undigested and build up gas and irritate the stomach lining.
- Clogged bile ducts leading to the inability to digest fats. Symptoms are the age old skid marks in the bowl. Butt…. oops I mean but, you will have excessive trails and more than likely sharp pains in your stomach after eating a high fat meal. For me avocados were the biggest culprit. Something that helped me a lot here was using digestive enzymes. I didn’t use them regularly only if I felt a problem coming on after eating, especially after big meals like thanksgiving or the buffet’s in Las Vegas. This a good blog about it.
- Prescription medicine side effects– Read the precautions on the package insert. Also, if you are taking several meds a combo of two or more may create a bad cocktail for your stomach.
- Alcohol– Not much needs explaining here. It’s really hard on everything, especially the intestines, kidneys and liver.
- Acidic foods– citrus, tomatoes, or anything on a label that has acid in the name, i.e.. aspartic acid, glutamic acid, phosphoric acid. Read the label on soda cans. It’s full of acid.
- COFFEE– I put this in big letters and a class of it’s own because coffee is extremely acidic. If you combine that with a dairy sensitivity or allergy…bang you have a possible explosion folks!
- Protein drinks or juicing. Too much hits your stomach too fast and passes right through.
- Too many vitamins or supplements at once– Magnesium, fish oils, green tea, zinc and many others are really hard on the stomach. If you are taking vitamins always take them with meals not on an empty stomach. Especially magnesium, too much by itself can cause diarrhea. Can you say Milk of Magnesia! This laxative uses magnesium.
- Too much fiber– You only need between 25-40 grams a day. More than that is irritating to those little intestinal villi that move and absorb your foods. You also need a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Too many colonics– Drys out the intestinal villi.
- Travel diarrhea with lingering side effects. No explaination here! Go to Mexico and have drink on me. Mine lasted two months after taking medicine.
- Antibiotics– This disrupts your intestinal flora (good bacteria) that help keep your gut healthy. Those “good bacteria” help breakdown certain foods. If they are in a losing battle so is your booty!
- Candida over growth. This is a yeast over growth that is most common in people that are immune compromised. It can occur in non-immune compromised people as well so don’t rule it out.
- Can’t digest FODMAP foods. Fermented Olglio-saccharide, Di-saccharide, Mono-saccharide and Polyols. Basically your intestines which normally produce methane gas during digestion cause the sufferer to produce hydrogen gas, which is really hard on the digestive tract. Certain foods are considered FODMAPS and they include mostly fruits and vegetables. Google it.
- Gluten intolerance or full blown Celiac disease. Gluten intolerance is hard to diagnose but a saliva test is the most common way. The best way to treat or diagnose it is using an elimination diet. Celiac diagnosis is usually confirmed through a microscope that is placed down your “pie hole” with a sample of your stomach being snipped off and tested.
- SIBO- Small Intestinal Bacterial Over growth. Basically what happens here is “backup” bacteria. It moves from the large intestine to the small intestine. Burp……….
- Eating too much in one sitting. If your pants start getting tight while you are eating, stop Jethro and step away!!
- Sugar alcohols usually found in “low calorie” foods. They are artificial sweeteners added to foods. Many are not digestible and have fewer calories than carbs, which is why they are used. It’s easy to tell which foods have them because they will usually list the term “net carbs” on the label or in the calorie breakdown. Some common names are glycerol, erythritol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol and lactitol. Basically any ingredient that ends in an “ol”. Each one listed above has different properties that determine which type of foods they are best used in. What makes these undesirable is that they can cause cramping and a host of other digestive issues and other indirect dysfunctions. Why are they not recommended? Most of these sweeteners are excreted in our urine, which in turn increases the frequency of urination. The increase in urination causes a loss of crucial minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. All these are related to cramping. Magnesium however is vital for muscle relaxation as well as many other vital processes. If we can’t get muscles to relax they become stiff and rigid over time and lend themselves to stiff and sore joints.
- Ileocecal valve syndrome– This valve is the exit point of were food is allowed to pass “one way”, from the small intestine to the large intestine. If this valve malfunctions and the reasons are many, fecal waste will back up into the small intestines and toxins will be released back into the body. There are many circumstances that cause this valve to malfunction but certain things can be avoided to decrease your risk of getting it…or treating it. Eliminate certain foods, such as carbonated drinks, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, raw foods, and spicy foods. Also, thoroughly chewing your food is numero uno. Symptoms are many and more information can be obtained on this disorder through a google search.
Hopefully this information has helped you determine what demon is residing in your gut or which one is causing it. We all strive to look and be our best. Our stomach health is a major part of that equation.
God bless and good day!