The symptoms associated with IBS can vary a great deal from person to person, which is why different kinds of IBS are now diagnosed by doctors once they have ruled out serious bowel disorders. But the symptoms may include stomach cramps, indigestion, bloating, disturbed bowel function, excess gas or mucus in the stool .
The key factor is disturbance of the usual control of the bowel by the nervous system. This causes the muscles to go into spasm, so that food and waste can’t move through properly, leading to trapped gas and stools, which then causes bloating and pain.
Stress can be a big factor, as can regularly eating too quickly (“lunch on the run”), which causes the upper intestine especially to block up. Other factors are hormonal changes, gut infections and of course food allergies or intolerances. Poor bacterial balance in the gut (dysbiosis) also appears to be a common factor.
Many people know that the worst offending foods are often too much wheat, dairy, sugar, yeast and caffeine. However, with some people even that apple we’re supposed to eat every day can cause gas, as can eggs or good vegetables such as cauliflower or cabbage.
IBS is also an inflammatory condition, so I always advise clients on getting the right balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory foods.
Clinical tests can help to pinpoint the exact underlying causes. However, in most cases, a targeted change of diet can ease your discomfort and give your digestive tract a chance to mend itself and restore normal functioning. It can be helpful to use supplements in the meantime to mend a leaky gut, replace good gut bacteria or restore natural production of digestive enzymes. It’s also important to plan the reintroduction of foods carefully so that the digestion can be encouraged to eat a wide range of foods safely again.
As with digestion generally, there is no single route that works for everyone. Always start by increasing water and soft, easily digested foods, cutting down on wheat and dairy, and chewing your food well. If that doesn’t fix the problem or it keeps coming back, you would be advised to seek professional nutritional advice. Digestion is too important to ignore!