Earlier, in parts 1 and 2 of our IBS blog series, I shared how your digestive tract works, what’s normal and what’s not, and what your poop is trying to tell you. In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the common symptoms associated with IBS. I’ll also tell you what you should rule out.
I’ve lived with an Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis for the last 25 years. Although it’s been in remission for many years now, I’m no stranger to the gastro’s office. In my experience, seeing a gastroenterologist is often scary because of all the unknowns. But, unless you test, you’ll never know what’s going on. And very often, the diagnosis is not as dangerous or frightening as you think it’s going to be. Moreover, even cancer, caught early enough, has a 91% survival rate.
What IBS Is and What It’s Not
First of all, IBS is not Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. Both of these disease processes are Inflammatory Bowel Diseases or IBD. I’m not going to get into these today because we could take all day to talk about each of them. However, I will say that dietary, supplemental, and lifestyle changes can improve symptoms for both of these conditions as well.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder of digestion due to the interplay between digestive secretions, bacterial flora, and dietary factors. It is also known as nervous indigestion, spastic colitis, and intestinal neurosis. (Pizzorno, 2012)
Symptoms of IBS:
IBS comes with a slew of symptoms that can make life miserable, uncomfortable, and challenging to plan.
- abdominal pain and distention
- more frequent bowel movements with pain
- relief of pain with bowel movements
- excessive production of mucus in the colon
- flatulence, nausea, anorexia
- varying degrees of anxiety or depression
Are My Scary Symptoms IBS or Something Worse?
IBS can mimic the symptoms of other disorders and diseases. For that reason, it’s always wise to get a thorough check-up from an integratively minded gastroenterologist. Once these are ruled out, all those scary symptoms might just add up to IBS and nothing worse.
Things you should check for or consider include:
- Infections (H. Pylori, bacterial, viral, or parasitic)
- Microbiome (affected by antibiotics and antacids)
- Diverticular Disease
- Irritable Bowel Disease
- Candida Overgrowth
- Lactose Intolerance
- Laxative Abuse
- Pancreatic Insufficiency
- Celiac Disease
- Mechanical Causes (Blockages etc.)
- Metabolic Disorders (adrenal insufficiency, diabetes, thyroid disease)
- Diet: coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, sugar
- Gallbladder dysfunction (Bile makes your stool soft by incorporating water into your poop. Lack of bile makes your poop hard to pass).
My Tests All Came Back Negative, But I Still Have Symptoms
I also know from personal experience that sometimes all the tests come back negative even though you are still experiencing symptoms. I had a couple of gallbladder scans that showed no blockages; my doctor told me that there was nothing wrong. Eventually, after some persistence, we discovered that my gallbladder didn’t pump correctly. At one point, I kept losing weight. I got down to 98lbs but doctors told me I was fine. I didn’t feel fine, so I pursued direction from another healthcare professional. They hit the nail on the head and I was able to resolve my concerns.
If your mainstream gastro can’t find anything through conventional testing, it might be time to find a Functional Medicine expert. They can check for other underlying causes. If you are struggling, it’s ok to seek a second and third opinion to find answers. Doctors do their best, but they can’t and don’t always know everything there is to know.
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.