What is IBS and How to Treat it

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS – Irritable bowel syndrome is a common digestive condition that is thought to affect 40% of us at some time in our lives. IBS usually starts before the age of 35 and can be lifelong.

Typical symptoms include

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Passing mucus when you pass a stool
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramping or stomach pains
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Passing excessive amounts of wind
  • Tiredness and lack and energy
Irritable bowel syndrome

These symptoms often come and go and are usually worse after eating and relieved by passing a stool.

When it comes to diagnosing IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there’s no specific test. It’s more about ruling out other causes of digestive discomfort such as a food allergy or a gut infection. IBS is very poorly understood by conventional medicine. It is very much seen as a group of symptoms that don’t have one clear cause.

As a result, the management of IBS has been very much focused on symptom management. Unfortunately, in most cases, this only provides limited relief as it doesn’t address why the IBS is happening.

Standard medical options include various types of laxative agents to target constipation, anti-diarrhoeal to combat loose stools, and anti-spasmodics to help reduce gut cramps. In some cases, anti-depressants may also be prescribed as these have been shown to help with abdominal pain in some IBS sufferers.

The Biological Medicine Approach to IBS

The biological medicine approach to IBS is very different to conventional medicine. Biological medicine looks at all aspects of digestive and nervous system health to uncover why, for each individual, the symptoms of IBS are occurring. It recognises that IBS is a multi-factorial condition where the causes are different for each person.

The first area to investigate is digestion. Low stomach acid, poor pancreatic juice secretion, or lack of bile can all trigger digestive problems. Food will be improperly broken down leading to it fermenting or putrefying in the intestines causing bloating, gas, discomfort and irregular stools.

Another common factor in IBS is damage to the delicate lining of the intestines where food is absorbed. If that lining breaks down — from stress, too many antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, steroids, intestinal infections, a low-fiber, high-sugar diet, alcohol, and more – your immune system will be exposed to foreign particles from food and bacteria and other microbes.  This will trigger and activate immune response, allergy, and will irritate your second brain (the enteric nervous system) creating havoc that leads to an irritable bowel, an irritable brain, and other system wide problems including allergy, arthritis, autoimmunity, mood disorders, and more.

The microbial ecosystem in the gut must be healthy for you to be healthy.  When your gut bacteria are out of balance — when you have too many pathogenic bacteria and not enough healthy bacteria — it makes you sick.  You’ve got about 1.5 KGs of bacteria — 500 species — in your gut. In fact, there is more bacterial DNA in your body than there is human DNA!

A landmark paper, was recently published in the prestigious British medical journal Gut that found eliminating foods identified through delayed food allergy testing (IgG antibodies) resulted in dramatic improvements in IBS symptoms[1]. Another article, an editorial in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, stated clearly that we must respect and recognize the role of food allergies and inflammation in IBS[2].

So the research tells us that these are the two main causes of irritable bowel — food allergies and overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine — but there may be others, including a lack of digestive enzymes, parasites living in the gut, zinc or magnesium deficiency, heavy metal toxicity, and more.

And this is precisely why it is so critically important to personalize treatment based on the unique circumstances that exist for each person who suffers from IBS — the solution is most certainly not one-size-fits-all. But solutions can be found if we look carefully at the underlying causes and treat them.

Diagnosing and Treating IBS at the Swiss Biological Medicine Center

Detailed gut diagnostics are instrumental in uncovering the underlying causes in IBS. Stool tests are used to assess digestive function, check for intestinal damage and identify gut infections and bacterial imbalances. Food intolerance testing identifies problem foods which may be contributing to IBS symptoms.

One particular imbalance that is very common in IBS is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. This leads to a lot of bloating and pain after eating and can trigger diarrhoea. Small intestine bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) can be detected with a specialised test.

Once identified we will be able to give you advise on a specific plan which includes nutrition and supplement protocol to resolve the issue. The diet involves excluding foods that ferment in the intestines for a period of time and supplements are used to restore bacterial balance.

By taking a complete overview of digestive health biological medicine is often more successful in providing long term IBS relief.  Many patients find that improving their digestive system health also has added benefits – increasing energy, improving sleep, optimising concentration, and balancing mood.


[1] https://gut.bmj.com/content/53/10/1459.abstract

[2]https://journals.lww.com/ajg/Abstract/2020/01000/What_Causes_Functional_Gastrointestinal_Disorders_.10.aspx

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