Do you need help managing IBS? (Or irritable bowel syndrome as it’s officially known). Or maybe you suspect you have it? Over my long career, I have treated thousands of patients with IBS symptoms. What I don’t often mention, is why I’ve doubled down on this area of dietetics, finding answers to treat and prevent IBS symptoms and improve gut health. You see, not long after I’d started my practice back in the 1990’s, a lovely woman booked into the clinic for a first appointment to talk about gut symptoms. While in the waiting room, she asked our receptionist to check how much longer I’d be. I was still with another patient, and told her not much longer. I was surprised though, as we were only running a few minutes behind.
When the patient came into my office, she looked terrified. She was sweating, and seemed agitated. The patient apologised right away, and explained that her IBS symptoms were so severe, she wasn’t sure she could get through our consultation. She told me she constantly had to plan her outings, to avoid being caught without a toilet nearby. This woman was young and should have been out there enjoying herself. Instead, she was living her life in fear, and in pain, and from what she’d described, she deserved better. My heart went out to her at that moment. I promised her I’d make it my mission to help. So I did a lot of extra research, and we tried several things. It took some time, but eventually, we found some things that worked. I’ll never forget the difference it made to her life.
Managing IBS today
Fast forward to today, and I’ve helped thousands of patients improve their IBS symptoms. But despite all the advancements we’ve made, IBS is still a subject that many people are embarrassed to talk about. And this embarrassment can often make people hide what’s really going on, or downplay the often debilitating symptoms. But make no mistake, it is not a rare condition. IBS actually impacts the lives of up to 30% of Australians today. So chances are, you know someone living with it. Maybe it’s a friend, or a neighbour, or someone at work? If so, it’s great to have understanding and compassion for what they might be going through. And if it is you, it’s great to know you’re not alone.
Watch my video or read my article below, to learn more about IBS, and how a gut specialist might be able to find causes and a treatment plan that is right for you.
Do you have IBS?
IBS is a condition that presents as many different symptoms, predominantly related to changes in the bowel. Those symptoms could be:
- bloating and distention
- general discomfort in the stomach area
pain, which can present as stabbing pain, generalised pain or pain that gets worse over time
- changes in bowel motions such as diarrhoea or constipation – sometimes
- alternating between both
IBS can be impact your life quite severely, and can also affect your ability to sleep. It can lead to pelvic pain in women, and can also have quite an impact on any auto-immune disease. So it’s important to know, that it can be fixed, and that help is out there. Seeing a gut specialist might make a big difference in your life.
Loose bowel motions and gut dysbiosis
If you suffer with loose bowel motions, we can actually work on fixing the gut microbiome. Usually loose bowel motions are associated with a change in the gut microbiome, which is called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is when the good and bad bacteria are out of balance, and that can happen for a number of different reasons. Those reasons can include:
- antibiotic use on and off
- viral infections like a gastric bug.
- use of anti-inflammatories or steroids on a regular basis
- long term use of the contraceptive pill
- any sort of trauma that’s been placed on the bowel
All of these factors can influence IBS or intestinal permeability, which we can fix by re-establishing the gut microbiome and fueling it with lots of fibre, reducing sugar content, and reducing a particular type of fat called saturated fat.
If you suffer with constipation, then we delve into that region as well. Sometimes that can be related to FODMAPs. It can also be related to inadequate fibre or water intake. There are different types of fibres:
- Soluble fibre
- Insoluble fibre
- Resistant starch
These different types of fibres all help in different ways to keep our bowels healthy and it’s important to consume all types of fibre from a variety of different foods to keep your bowels in good working order. We might also increase your intake of magnesium, to assist with this. Lastly, we can also examine possible food intolerances. Whether they are related to the intake of FODMAPs, the long version of these foods is Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. The chemical names of several sugars that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine by those who are intolerant to them. You may also have an intolerance related to dairy, or gluten. Or maybe none of these factors are impacting your IBS.
Every body is different and needs expert help
I must stress here, the reason for your IBS symptoms may be very different from someone else you know with the very same condition. And every person therefore, needs a different management and treatment plan for IBS. So it’s important to uncover those reasons with a gut specialist dietitian, rather than trying to follow someone else’s path, a one-size-fits-all approach, or by Googling treatments. For instance, adding lots of fibre to the diet won’t counteract a true FODMAPs intolerance. But when there is no FODMAPs intolerance present, removing them from the diet unnecessarily can actually make the gut more sensitive, even increasing IBS symptoms. That’s why, there is a process we follow, and it requires supervision, and the experience to understand the nuances that make the difference.
Want a sample of recipes that support better gut health?
We have compiled a free recipe booklet with some easy and tasty Mediterranean-inspired recipes which are also great for overall gut health. Why not give them a try? If you want more Mediterranean ideas and recipes, we also have published two books dedicated to Mediterranean cooking, eating and living.
Discussing poo is not taboo!
I know it’s sometimes embarrassing to talk about bowel motions and flatulence etc, sure. But trust me, we’ve heard it all before here in the Tree of Life Nutrition Clinic! With the right help and experience on your side, we want you to know that it is possible to improve IBS. Helping you feel less bloated, with correct bowel motions, and without pain. Make a time to talk about your IBS symptoms with one of our gut health specialists, and get started on the road to having fewer symptoms, and a better quality of life.
The content in this article is not intended as medical advice. It is also of a general nature and is not tailored to your individual circumstances. If you are experiencing significant digestive symptoms, a 1:1 consultation is always the best approach. Please contact our clinic to discuss your unique situation and our tailored and individualised IBS protocol.