3 Things to Do If You’ve Been Diagnosed with IBS
Written by: Marisol Teijeiro N.D. (inactive).
Medically reviewed by: Victoria Williams R.H.N.
Est. reading time: 13 minutes.
Bowel movements, defecation, going poo… it’s the #1 most important process of the human body, and not the #2! Are you one of the 14-20% of the world population with irritable bowel syndrome (that’s approximately one BILLION people!)1? It is hypothesized that those who have gotten the diagnosis are only the tip of the iceberg, meaning that there are so many more people that have it but haven’t been diagnosed yet. You know all too well how it can negatively affect your life. Here are the first 3 things you need to do to take control of what is happening to your body. It has to do with 3 “s” words, and shit isn’t one of them. Stools, stress and sleep.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic, long term, recurring functional condition, meaning that when you are tested via labs or colonoscopy, everything looks normal. There seems to be no reason for your symptoms, nevertheless you have them and they are debilitating.
The Frustration of an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosis
This is extremely frustrating to hear from your doctor, especially after you have been suffering with these symptoms that have had a detrimental impact on all aspects of your life. From limiting your social life for fear of an adverse bowel movement, to affecting your work life by causing you to spend too much time in the bathroom or taking more sick days than the norm. Not to mention huge psychological impact on your well being, living with this ever growing problem.
What are the Risk Factors for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The most noted risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome are being a women, of young age, and having a preceding gut infection of some sort2. The risk is actually four times higher for those who have had an infectious gut condition3.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The most common symptoms of IBS include a combination of recurring:
- Abdominal pain
- Distension, bloating and gas
- Abnormal bowel movements – diarrhea and/or constipation
The Categories of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
It is classified in three categories – constipation, diarrhea or an alternation between both.
- IBS-C: Predominantly constipation
- IBS-D: Predominantly diarrhea
- IBS-M: Mixed, alternating between constipation and diarrhea
- IBS-U: Unclassified
The classification is based upon the Bristol Stool Scale (see below), designating the form of bowel movements.
Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Genetic?
It is possible. There is a link to early life exposure to stress affecting the body’s natural response to stress. So, your exposure to stress in utero or fetal programming4 as well as experiences as a young child can pre-program you into a maladaptive, unhealthy response to stress, changing the way that your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) functions5. These are the master organs that balance the regulation systems of your body, most responsible for the way your body deals with stress.
IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT, BUT IT IS UP TO YOU TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
The Regulatory Systems Impacted In Irritable Bowel Syndrome
When you are under stress, whether it be emotional or physical stress, the body does not have the ability to differentiate6. Two processes occur in the body to try and maintain balance. The inflammatory arm of the immune system activates to try and burn off the stressor. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (a combination of the hormonal and nervous system7) also activates to turn off less important mechanisms that don’t deal with immediate life right now.
These three regulatory systems of the body, the immune, nervous and hormonal system’s goal in health is to keep everything in balance, everything functioning well. But under stress, they shut down non-vital functions for preservation of life. Therefore there’s dysregulation in these systems with IBS8. We also see an elevation of glucocorticoids and inflammatory markers.
So don’t be surprised if you find yourself with multiple conditions on top of your IBS. For me, I had both irritable bowel syndrome as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). These are often conditions that respond to an elevation of the body’s immune inflammatory messengers and the neurohormonal glucocorticoids.
Hormone Problems and IBS
Is this a coincidence then, that many women who have IBS also have PCOS? No it is not, because the body can only balance so much. In PCOS there are elevated levels of leptin, a hormone that affects food intake, energy balance and fat tissue stores but is also pro-inflammatory to the intestinal tract. Research shows that with irritable bowel syndrome there is also this elevated level of leptin in the intestine9.
When there is stress, many of our non-vital systems like being fertile, having regular periods, or having a healthy metabolism go into preservation mode, because the infinite intelligence of our bodies doesn’t want to use up resources because it has no idea how long the stressor will last.
Another co-existing hormonal problem that is common with IBS type symptoms, like constipation, is hypothyroid10.
Immune System Problems and IBS
The immune system is regulated by the MICROBIOME. The ever important home of billions of bugs that live on our mucosal membrane and skin.
Healthy, friendly probiotics help to improve the mucosal immune system11, whereas conbiotics™, as I like to call them, or pathogenic bacteria cause total dysfunction of the immune system12.
This leads you susceptible to constantly getting sick. Overreacting to foods as your gut’s reaction to foods is based on the immune system. It is well known that people with IBS react to many foods such as lactose13, gluten14 and other components of wheat to name a few.
Nervous System Problems and IBS
Google IBS and you will soon find many links that discuss the coexistence of depression and anxiety with IBS, but also as a coexisting factor with most chronic conditions. Many say that it may be in response to the condition, but it very well may be the cause of the condition, (is it the chicken or the egg, which came first?) as stress significantly alters the bodies’ regulatory homeostatic mechanisms15.
Is Stress the Cause of IBS?
Stress is a root cause of many conditions and chronic diseases. It is likely that it is a root cause of IBS, as the overlap of anxiety, depression, hormonal disturbances and immune variations are all linked to irritable bowel syndrome.
Treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
It’s no surprise that at present the majority of treatments and medicines for irritable bowel syndrome are tools that mediate the functions of these three regulatory systems of the immune, nervous and hormonal systems, as the gut is the main hub for all three.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications have been used for IBS, as well as antibiotics such as Rifaximin, as a way to improve the gut microbiome16.
Fix the FOUNDATION, Don’t Palliate the Problem
Living happy and healthy with IBS requires a more foundational perspective. Not looking at what can be taken to fix the problem, but what can be done and practiced to prepare the body to be in the best shape to target the regulation of the 3 systems that are out of balance – the immune, hormonal and nervous systems of the body.
The 3 easy steps to alleviate IBS:
1. Know Your Stools:
Your stools say everything about you. It’s no surprise that irritable bowel syndrome is classified based on the form according to the Bristol Stool Scale and frequency.
They can tell you key nutrient deficiencies, like magnesium being low in hormonal problems or zinc deficiency in nervous system problems, as an example. They tell about B-vitamins and other necessities to keep the foundation of our bodies functioning in harmony.
Download the free eGuide called the 50 Shades of Poo that is the first step in understanding what your poo says about you. This will set you up with an excellent practice so you can take control of your irritable bowel syndrome!
This is the most important place to start, because as Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” It’s time for you to know better.
2. Address Your Stress:
Stress plays such a key role in IBS and the problem is we are constantly bombarded with stress. Massages and acupuncture are great ways to balance our stress levels, but we can only do them from time to time because cost is prohibitive and we are so busy, it’s hard to go to an appointment.
A Castor Oil Pack is a legendary health practice that has been in existence since biblical times and practiced by all systems and cultures of medicine. Indian, Chinese, Greek, Mediterranean, Caribbean, etc.
This tool is predominantly used to practice the pause, or the relaxed state17. In the relaxed state you can heal. Your gut microbiota is healthier, your inflammation is down, you cleanse better and your bowels move (these are also all the things the Castor Oil Pack does, independently of helping you to practice the pause).
If you feel like you’re doing everything else ‘right’ – a healthy diet, good quality supplements, regular exercise, etc. but still feel like crap, this modernized ancient health tool can help pull everything together.
3. Fix your Sleep:Sleep resets the body and it undeniably helps with cleansing and calming, so that the nervous, hormonal and immune systems have a fighting chance. One way to improve your sleep is simply by wearing an eye mask. Like the Castor Oil Pack for Liver, an eye mask stimulates the pituitary gland to produce melatonin naturally18. This is a supplement-free way to help your body sleep and it’s amazing how a simple strategy can help to improve the bodies’ ability to heal overnight. The Queen of the Thrones® Castor Oil Eye Compress Kit contains an eye mask as well as a 100ml Cosmetic Castor Oil and cosmetic brush for application of Castor Oil to the eyelash and eyebrow areas.
So there you have it. Those are the first three things you can do once you know you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. My hope is that you take these and let them help you to make a difference in your life. Because you don’t need to suffer. You need to learn and do what will help you to get your best body balance.
Are you a practitioner, health coach or wellness influencer? If you’re interested in recommending our easy-to-use tools and practically applying them in your health and wellness professional practice, in clinic, or online with the people you serve, you can join now!
Click here for references
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