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Alyssa Simpson RD, CDE, CLT
Alyssa Simpson

RD, CDE, CLT​

Painful Diarrhea, Constipation, Bloating, Belly Pain? You Might Have IBS

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Has This Ever Happened To You?

? It starts with the gurgle. You hear it. You feel it. And once that gurgle starts deep in your gut, you know you don’t have much time. You’re going to need a bathroom… and FAST.

OR

? You can’t seem to eat a meal without painful bloating. Your pants fit fine in the morning, but by mid-afternoon, you can barely keep them buttoned.

OR

? You haven’t had a bowel movement in days. And you’re really uncomfortable. Your stomach is bloated and won’t calm down. You keep hoping your next trip to the bathroom will offer some relief, but when nearly nothing happens, you just get more frustrated.

If any of this sounds familiar, you may be suffering with a condition called inflammatory bowel syndrome — IBS for short. 

It’s estimated that about 10% – 15% of Americans suffer with IBS symptoms (some sources estimate as high as 20%). But only half of those people have been diagnosed.

Many people with IBS don’t realize they have it. And while there is no official cure for IBS, there is hope. Lifestyle and food changes can make a HUGE difference in IBS symptoms.

For the next few weeks we’re talking all about IBS. Symptoms, testing, treatment… If your stomach pain with diarrhea or constipation is interfering with your life, stay tuned. There is hope.

IBS Symptoms

Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects your colon (large intestine). It’s not a clearly defined medical condition, but more a collection of IBS symptoms. 

IBS is characterized primarily by belly pain and recurring constipation and/or diarrhea. But it can include a variety of issues:

? Belly pain

? Constipation

? Diarrhea

? Constipation and diarrhea

? Cramping that typically subsides after a bowel movement

? Gas and bloating

? Feeling like your bowel movement isn’t finished

? Mucus in your stools

Because IBS is characterized by such a variety of issues, there isn’t one specific test that will tell you whether or not IBS is the cause of your digestive problems. So it’s important to work with your practitioner to figure out if you have IBS.

IBS Causes

What causes IBS? Honestly, we don’t know for sure. And the IBS causes aren’t necessarily universal. There are a variety of things that appear to lead to irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s possible that IBS is triggered when there is a disruption in the signals between the brain and the intestines. This miscommunication may cause the intestinal muscles to contract resulting in cramps, pain, and constipation or diarrhea. 

My patients have had great results when we pinpoint and eliminate problem foods. It’s likely that the nerves in the intestine are sensitive to certain food triggers.

But there are many possibilities:

  • Dysfunction in how the GI muscles contract and move food along
  • Severe infection — a virus or bacteria that triggers severe diarrhea can be the start of IBS
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines. If you’d like more information on this, check out my series on SIBO starting with this article. Science shows us there is a connection between SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) and IBS.
  • Changes in the gut microbiome (the microscopic organisms that live in your intestine)
  • Childhood trauma or a stressful event early in life

Since there is no one clear cause, or one set of specific symptoms associated with IBS, diagnosis can be difficult. In fact, many of my IBS patients have come to me frustrated because their doctor couldn’t tell them what was wrong — or even worse, told them nothing was wrong with them.

We’ll dig more into how to find out if you have IBS in next week’s article.

What Triggers IBS Symptoms?

If you suffer from IBS, you probably feel like you’re walking on eggshells. You can be fine, and then BAM something triggers your symptoms and your day is wrecked.

I work with my patients to identify their unique triggers so they can keep their IBS symptoms at bay.

Because IBS varies so much from person to person, not everyone’s triggers are the same. But if you’re struggling to figure out how to get your symptoms under control, there are common triggers you can avoid:

? Stress

As many as 75% of IBS patients indicate that stress can trigger an episode. It’s impossible to totally avoid stress. But there are things you can do:

✔ Look at the recurring stressful situations in your life and do what you can to eliminate them. This isn’t always easy (or possible), but it’s a good place to start.

✔ Practice stress-relieving activities like meditation.

✔ Spend time doing things that bring you joy. This can be as simple as getting yourself an adult coloring book or app and coloring while you listen to soothing music.

? Anxiety And Depression

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone. And there is help available. Talk to your practitioner about finding a mental health professional who can help you.

Mental health issues are like any other health issue. They can happen to anyone. And if you’re struggling, it’s a good idea to seek help — just like you would if you had a physical ailment.

? Food Triggers

When I work with my IBS patients, we focus on identifying their food triggers. I’ve worked with over 1,000 patients and I’ve found this to be the most important step in getting IBS under control. 

In a couple of weeks, I’ll do a deep dive into some of the most common food triggers to avoid. Stay tuned!

IBS can keep you from enjoying your life. Whether it’s painful bloating that makes it uncomfortable to move and scared to eat, or you find yourself planning your life around being close to a bathroom, IBS is no fun. 

And the people around you don’t always understand. Even your doctor may not understand. But I’ve got you. I work with IBS patients every day. And I’m here to help. 

You can start getting your body back on track with my free IBS Resource Guide. Check it out here. 

If you’re ready to get to the bottom of your digestive issues by figuring out your own unique triggers, let’s get on a call!

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