IBS is a Pain in the Rear. It Doesn’t Have to Be.
Elizabeth received her IBS diagnosis in graduate school. Initially, she was relieved that she had some answers, but then her doctor told her that there weren’t any solutions for her condition. In her own words, she was “stupefied.” She said: “I was given several drugs over a month, but couldn’t function normally because of the side effects. I was completely unsatisfied and frustrated. I don’t want drugs for pain; I want a cure for something that will reduce the occurrence of symptoms.”
Elizabeth is not alone. Fifteen percent of Americans suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. Many doctors tell their patients that there aren’t any solutions for the condition. As a result, doctors commonly prescribe pain medications, anti-anxiety meds, laxatives, or anti-diarrheal remedies as treatment options. However, most people are left to try and figure out how to remedy the situation. Navigating life with diarrhea, pain, bloating, and gas is exceptionally challenging. For those struggling with the diagnosis, the unpredictable nature of their digestive habits can take over. As a result, it dictates when they come and go, where they travel, their ability to work and attend school.
But all hope is not lost. Many people, like Elizabeth, find ways to manage their diagnosis with diet, supplements, and stress management.
What You’ll Learn About IBS In This Series
April is IBS Awareness Month, so we’re dedicating the next five blog posts to the topic. Over the next five weeks, you will:
- Gain a better understanding of how your digestive tract works
- Learn to listen to your poop
- Understand what IBS is and isn’t and what you should rule out
- Learn about some of the hidden culprits behind IBS symptoms
- Discover some lifestyle and supplement choices that may help
What Is My Belly Supposed To Do?
To better understand why your belly misbehaves, it’s helpful to know how your digestive tract is supposed to work. You are basically a walking, talking, digesting organism. After all, most of the organs in your torso break down your food and assimilate the nutrients.
Your digestive tract begins at your mouth and ends at your anus. Along the way, it involves your stomach, small intestines, large intestines, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Even your appendix stores your good bacteria.
Digestion is both mechanical and chemical. You grind your food up when you chew, and then hydrochloric acid and enzymes help break it down chemically.
First Stop! Your Mouth
As I just mentioned, digestion begins with mechanically chewing your food. The chewed food gets mixed with enzymes in your saliva to further the process. Your saliva contains Amylase which breaks down starch molecules into smaller sugars.
Second Stop! Your Stomach
Once you swallow your food, it spends forty-five minutes to four hours churning and turning inside your belly. Your stomach muscles turn your food over and over, mixing it with hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin. This step is necessary for the proper absorption of proteins and minerals. Your food stays here until it is a semi-liquid consistency, after which it can move on to the next step in the digestive process.
Third Stop! Your Small Intestine
The semi-liquid food, called chyme, arrives at your small intestines. Overall, the small intestine is 21 feet long and divided into three parts:
- the duodenum (10-12 inches), absorbs your minerals
- the jejunum (8ft long), absorbs your water-soluble vitamins, carbohydrates, and proteins
- the ileum (12ft long), absorbs your fat-soluble vitamins fat, cholesterol, and bile salts
Diseases like celiac disease, gluten intolerance, food allergies or intolerances, intestinal infections, and Crohn’s disease occur in your small intestine. They often lead to nutritional deficiencies because the inflammation prevents nutrient absorption.
Your pancreas connects to your small intestines. It produces enzymes that break down fats (lipases), proteins (proteases), and carbohydrates (amylases). When your proteins don’t break down properly, you can develop allergies. Proteases also keep your small intestines free from bacteria, yeast, and parasites (such as protozoa and worms).
Your liver manufactures bile which is secreted into your small intestines or stored in your gallbladder. It is necessary for the absorption of fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. It also keeps your small intestines free of harmful microorganisms.
Last stop: Your Colon!
Your large intestines, or colon, are about 5 feet in length. It helps you absorb water and electrolytes. It’s also a temporary storage spot for waste products. Dietary fiber is the best way to take care of this spot in your body. Waste and toxins that sit here for too long can get reabsorbed back into your body.
How Long Does This Take?
It takes your food 24 to 72 hours to get from your mouth to the toilet. The amount of time it takes depends on what you’ve eaten and the health of your colon. Ideally, 24 hours is better than 72. This is why we love it if our clients have at least one bowel movement a day.
If I’ve Got IBS, Why Does This Matter?
I can’t believe how many of my clients don’t even know where their liver is! Knowledge is empowerment. In fact, if you know how your body works and where your organs are, you can have an informed conversation with your health care provider about what’s going on. Therefore awareness of how your digestive tract works is essential if you want to understand why it isn’t functioning and what you can do about it.
The state of your digestive tract directly impacts your brain health. Additionally, many people with IBS struggle with symptoms of anxiety and depression. To learn more, you can read my blog post: Is Your Depression and Anxiety Diet Related?
For most people, minor lifestyle changes will make a big difference. However, there are times when the problem runs deeper, and you need professional help. If you’ve tried to figure this out on your own, or you feel like you’re lost in a maze of information and aren’t sure which path to take, don’t give up hope.
We have a range of different approaches that will help you figure out the root cause of your dysfunction and stop the cycle of sickness so you can feel better now. Book your free 30-minute Breakthrough Strategy Session today.