Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a problem I often see in clinic and it can be problematic on many different levels. If you've been diagnosed with this condition, you may well have been suffering with it for years and, while a diagnosis can – at first – offer comfort in finally having a recognised problem,that may be short lived because often that’s where all support ends, and you’re left no further forward in actually fixing what the problem is. Or you may have self-diagnosed through searching the internet by using a process of elimination.
The difficulty begins because IBS is essentially a catch-all term, which is used to encompass a huge variety of digestive issues. In my experience, it’s likely to be one of the following five conditions:
1 SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
Around 60% of people with IBS will have SIBO. Though you might have heard about good (and bad) bacteria in the gut, really what experts are talking about is the balance of bacteria in the large intestine: the colon.
The small intestine shouldn’t have hardly any bacteria, and each day the body should perform a flush to sweep bacteria from the small intestine and into the large intestine. This flush is called the ‘migrating motor complex’. For a huge variety of reasons (historic food poisoning being the most common, but also low levels of stomach acid or adhesions play a role, among others) the bacteria are not swept away.
The trouble is that these bacteria can ferment the food in your small intestine, causing gas, belching, bloating, pain and a variety of other symptoms, including constipation and/or loose stools, and even anxiety. A breath test can establish which gases are present, and we can devise an action plan based on your results.
2 Lactose intolerance
This is when your body is not able to tolerate lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products. Essentially, bacteria in your intestine feed on these milk sugars, leading to a host of IBS symptoms, like bloating and gas, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea.
It can go hand in hand with other digestive complaints, such as coeliac disease or increased intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’). Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed via a simple at-home breath test.
3 Fructose malabsorption
The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance. Fructose (which is found in fruit, honey and many processed foods) is a sugar, which, like lactose, is digested in the small intestine.
Some people cannot absorb fructose, and what is not absorbed is fermented by intestinal bacteria, causing bloating, cramping, gas and distension of the stomach. You might also experience brain fog and headaches.
A breath test will confirm the condition.
This is an imbalance in the levels of beneficial (good) and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the large intestine or colon. This is now common due to overuse of antibiotics and alcohol, an increase in high sugar diets, and stress.
Symptoms can vary from a sluggish bowel, constipation or diarrhoea or both, pain, bloating and flatulence, to chronic bad breath, joint pain, fatigue and food sensitivities.
Dysbiosis is also implicated in a variety of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A stool test can help establish whether your gut bacteria are out of balance, along with a host of other markers that might be useful in getting to the root of your digestive problems.
5 Yeast overgrowth
Where the gut environment becomes out of balance (due to dysbiosis), yeast can thrive. Diets high in sugar feed the yeast – although if you think you might have a yeast overgrowth, it’s worth noting that long-term yeast problems can mean that the yeast cells are pathogenic or disease causing, and that the yeast has switched its metabolism to also be able to digest protein and fat.
Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include recurring thrush, gas or bloating, fatigue, bad breath, cravings for sweet foods, joint pain and brain fog.
A stool test can establish the presence of candida or other yeast overgrowth.
Some people struggle with digestive problems for years, but you can often get to the root cause of the issue and make changes to help you feel like yourself again. Do get in touch if you'd like to find out more about how I can help you find your root cause. I offer free 30 minute health assessments - click the link to book.
Alex Allan Nutrition is part of the Green Leaf Company (London) Ltd, a limited company registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 10990293
Disclaimer: ‘Please note that nutritional therapy is not medical advice - this should always be sought from your doctor or other medical provider. I aim to work alongside your doctor or GP to provide nutritional and lifestyle advice to support any underlying imbalances.'