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Uncovering IBS and Digesting Life Fully


appy IBS Awareness Month! That’s right, April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness month, and I’m dropping in for the tail end (pun absolutely intended) of it to talk about one of the most common complaints I hear from my patients: problems with their digestion.  It is so common that I wanted to address some of the shame around it, and talk about some possible causes and of course some information on potential treatments. As always, what is given to you in my articles is not a substitute for actual medical advice and you should meet with your health care provider to discuss your symptoms and what treatment is right for you. 

DISPELLING SHAME Bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea – these are still things that many of us feel embarrassed to experience in public and even more embarrassed to discuss. I think it’s about time we as a society got over it. Newsflash − not only does EVERYBODY poop, but around 18 per cent of Canadians (that’s over six million people) experience symptoms of IBS, and that’s just those who seek medical advice for it. Many people are too embarrassed to consult with their doctor and suffer in silence.  The suffering is unnecessary; there are so many impactful things that can be done to treat and cure IBS symptoms.  But first, let’s look at some of the potential causes. 

WHAT CAUSES IBS? Not only do many people not report their symptoms, but they are often dismissed when they do, and there is much confusion regarding next steps to help them feel better. However, many people who are diagnosed with IBS actually may be experiencing another

condition such as one of the ones listed below. IBS is not always an end diagnosis and should always be investigated further for the actual cause of the symptoms presenting. FOOD INTOLERANCES Many people who have food intolerances and sensitivities aren’t even aware of them. Common food intolerances include dairy, gluten, egg, soy, corn, peanuts and citrus fruits. It is worth having a food sensitivity test conducted if you experience IBS symptoms as you may be surprised by what you find out.  LEAKY GUT SYNDROME  Leaky Gut Syndrome is an abnormal increase in the permeability of the lining of the small intestine. With the intestinal lining compromised, bacteria, undigested food and toxins can leak from the intestines through the damaged intestinal lining into the bloodstream. This causes your immune system to respond and triggers inflammation throughout the body leading to symptoms like bloating, fatigue, achy joints, headaches, skin problems and food intolerances.  BACTERIAL AND YEAST OVERGROWTH  Recurring antibiotic use can lead to an imbalance in your gut flora and/ or an overgrowth of yeast in your intestines. Yeast ferments foods which causes an increase in gas and bloating. Similarly, bacterial overgrowth can cause bacteria to spread into your small intestine, a condition called SIBO, which is problematic as this overgrowth of bacteria can interfere with normal digestion and absorption of food and can lead to damage to the lining of the small intestine (leaky gut syndrome as mentioned above). DIGESTIVE ENZYME DEFICIENCY  Digestive enzymes are produced by your pancreas to break down proteins,

carbohydrates, fats and lactose (the sugar found in dairy). Sometimes the body doesn’t produce enough of a particular enzyme which may lead to uncomfortable digestive symptoms due to improperly digested food reaching the large intestine. STRESS AND ANXIETY Stress and anxiety can cause IBS symptoms due to their effect on your parasympathetic nervous system. Our bodies’ digestive system relies on the parasympathetic tone (the state of our body when it is at rest) in order to conduct proper digestive processes. When we are in “fight or flight”, our body reduces function of these processes in order to attend to more “urgent” systems such as our circulation. Chronic stress and anxiety can take a big toll on your digestive system and produce many IBS symptoms. 

WHAT CAN I DO TO TREAT IBS SYMPTOMS? Treatment will vary based on your condition, but there are some steadfast things you can do that will help no matter what the underlying cause is: CONSIDER SOME KEY SUPPLEMENTS Probiotics can be helpful in many cases of IBS as they help to boost digestive function and recolonize the digestive system with healthy bacteria. t Digestive enzymes can help with digestion and nutrient absorption. They are typically taken before each meal. t L-glutamine is a nutrient that helps repair the lining of the digestive tract – it can be especially useful for individuals with leaky gut syndrome. t Herbs such as slippery elm, ginger and marshmellow root can help soothe intestinal inflammation.

EAT AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET Inflammation is a common thread to cause many of the conditions above. Avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, red meat, processed food, dairy, gluten, caffeine and alcohol. It’s also a good idea to increase your intake of anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, rosemary and ginger. It may be worth having a food sensitivity test conducted by your healthcare provider to identify your trigger foods. MANAGE YOUR STRESS Likewise, stress is a major factor in causing many conditions related to IBS symptoms. Practice stress management techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation. Also support your stress glands (adrenal glands) with B vitamins and herbs such as Rhodiola, Siberian ginseng and Ashwagandha. In conclusion, I want you to know that your digestion is a key pillar indicating your overall wellness, and not only is it totally okay to come in and talk about all of this with your ND, but I encourage you to also open up about these aspects of your wellness with your friends and family. Having the courage to go first can lead to DR. MARITA SCHAUCH, BSC. ND, IS A NATUROPATHIC PHYSICIAN WITH a collective sigh A FAMILY PRACTICE AT TALL TREE of relief as we all INTEGRATED HEALTH CENTRE, relax into a world 5325 CORDOVA BAY RD., MATTICK’S FARM without shame PH: 250-658-9222 for our bodies’ DOCTORMARITA.COM basic functions.


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