IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS) IS IT JUST AN UMBRELLA TERM FOR A MYRIAD OF PAINFUL SYMPTOMS?
Have you found yourself diagnosed with IBS but still don’t know what it is? Are you scratching your head as to what to do next? Lets take a deeper look at what can cause so many people the uncomfortable, painful and annoying symptoms labelled as IBS.
IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder seen by general practitioners (GP’s) in the United Kingdom today. Rates are reported to be as high as up to 50 % of GP visits. Interestingly, amongst other things, IBS has a connection with the gut and the brain. Not many people realize that the gut and brain have an important relationship that can affect IBS sufferers. This relationship can be severely affected by genetic disturbances related to lack of serotonin production in the gut. Serotonin is our happy hormone and lack of production can lead to gut dysbiosis (imbalance in gut bacteria), IBS, anxiety and depression. It is a bit of a chicken and egg situation because gut dysbiosis can also prevent production of serotonin that can then lead to IBS, anxiety and depression.
There are three main types of IBS – 1. Diarrhoea-predominant (IBS-D), 2. Constipation-predominant (IBS-C), and 3. Diarrhoea/Constipation mixed (IBSM). These categories are based on the Bristol Stool Chart Scale, which is a chart that shows the appearance of a stool, faeces or the more commonly known poo and gives it a grade from 1-7 accordingly.
If IBS is just an umbrella term, what else can cause it? Studies show that 1 in 9 people who have had food poisoning develop IBS. This is known as post-infectious IBS and the most common bacteria to cause it are Shigella, Campylobacter, Salmonella and E Coli.
These bacteria release a toxin called Cytolethal Distending Toxin B (CdtB). What a mouthful! And that’s exactly how you can become infected via the fecal oral route. That’s the anus to the mouth! So don’t forget to wash your hands after visiting the toilet and preparing food.
Once infected the body reacts by producing an antibody – in this case antiCdtB. Unfortunately CdtB looks like vinculin, a critical protein in the body needed for healthy gut function. Because CdtB and vinculin look alike the body thinks it needs to attack both and produces another antibody called antivinculin. This then leads to an autoimmune response that creates gut nerve damage and slows gut motility. The result is post-infectious IBS and often Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) that is prevalent amongst IBS sufferers.
SIBO is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine and it can account for as much as 70% of IBS cases. Many of IBS symptoms are causes by the gases produced and include food intolerances, abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence, bloating, reflux etc.
Probiotics and certain prebiotics can really help in cases of IBS but just be careful not to add fuel to the fire when dealing with SIBO. By finding the actual cause of your IBS is crucial in resolving symptoms. Working with a naturopathic nutritionist can help identify the cause and best options available.