Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a condition that affects the colon (large intestine). Once dismissed by conventional physicians as a psychosomatic condition (meaning that it was due solely to psychological issues), IBS is now recognized by both the conventional and holistic medical community as one of the most prevalent forms of chronic gastrointestinal disorders. It manifests without any evidence of structural damage to the gastrointestinal tract, such as inflammation or ulceration of the lining of the intestinal walls. Despite the lack of such damage, IBS can severely disrupt healthy function of the gastrointestinal tract, and cause a variety of ongoing symptoms that can great affect a person's overall quality of life.
The primary symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea (often both of these conditions alternate in IBS patients), flatulence, and nausea, as well as anorexia nervosa, anxiety, and depression. Symptoms tend to be chronic, although their degree of severity can ebb and flow, ranging from mild to severe.
IBS can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor diet and nutrition, food allergies, imbalanced levels of hydrochloric acid, impaired immunity, infections, lack of exercise, "leaky gut" syndrome, pharmaceutical drugs, and stress.
Diet and Nutrition: One of the primary causes of IBS, as well as other gastrointestinal disorders, is a diet that is high in commercially processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats, and which contains an abundance of chemical additives and preservatives while lacking adequate amounts of fiber. Such a diet, which sadly is all too typical of the way many people eat in the United States and other industrialized countries not only places a great burden on the gastrointestinal tract, it can also result in serious nutritional deficiencies. All of these factors, combined, can lead to excess acidity in the GI tract, indigestion, poor absorption of food nutrients, "leaky gut" syndrome, a buildup of toxins, and autoimmune reactions.
Food Allergies: Food allergies, while often overlooked or misdiagnosed by conventional physicians, are another common cause of IBS, as well as many other disease conditions. If you suffer from IBS, or any other gastrointestinal disorder, it is very important that you be tested for food allergies and sensitivities. Common allergy-causing foods include milk and dairy products, wheat, gluten (a component of wheat products), corn, and chocolate, but any food has the potential to cause food allergies.
Imbalanced Hydrochloric Acid Levels: Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is secreted by the stomach to aid in the digestion of food. Many people suffer from a lack of HCl production, however, which can lead to impaired digestion and poor absorption of food nutrients, and eventually affect the gastrointestinal tract. Similarly, an excess of HCl production can result in a state of over-acidity, causing IBS symptoms, as well as heartburn and flatulence.
Impaired Immune Function: Impaired immunity can also cause or contribute to IBS, as well as other GI disorders due to the relationship between diminished immune function and poor absorption of nutrients from food. In addition, poor immunity can also result in an increase in toxins within the gastrointestinal tract, as well as cause autoimmune reactions that actually attack the cells of the intestinal lining.
Infections: Infections caused by bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses all negatively affect overall gastrointestinal health. In addition to releasing toxins into the GI tract, infectious microorganisms can cause autoimmune reactions, "leaky gut" syndrome, and malabsorption, as well as dysbiosis, or overgrowth of unhealthy intestinal flora such as Candida albicans, the primary cause of candiasis.
Lack of Exercise: Failure to exercise regularly can result in diminished production of digestive and pancreatic enzymes, as well as hydrochloric acid (HCl), all of which are necessary for healthy gastrointestinal function and which, if lacking, can result in a wide variety of gastrointestinal disorders.
Pharmaceutical Drugs: The following drugs can all cause and exacerbate various gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS: Accutane, Alka-Seltzer Antacid and Alka-Seltzer Pain Reliever, Anturane, Genuine Bayer Aspirin, Bayer Plus Aspirin, Bayer Regular Strength Enteric Aspirin, Bufferin Analgesic Tablets and Caplets, Ceptaz, Clinoril, Cuprimine, Ecotrin Enteric Coated Aspirin, Feldene, Ilosone, Lamprene, Leukine for IV Infusion, Lopid, Marplan, Meclomen, Novantrone, Paraplatin, Piroxicam, Prokine I.V. Infusion, Retrovir, Rynatuss, Supprelin Injection, Suprax, Ticlid, Tolectin, Toradol IM Injection, Trecator-SC, Trilisate, and Voltaren.
Stress: Chronic and poorly managed
stress has a direct effect on the gastrointestinal system, and
elevated stress levels have long been linked by scientific research
to a wide variety of GI disorders, including IBS, because of how
stress results in elevated acid production and impairs overall
A condition caused by damage to the stomach and intestinal lining, specifically the mucosa.
When food allergies, unfriendly bacteria or parasites are present, the intestinal lining in the gut can become inflamed, and this inflammation can lead to a variety of serious health problems.
First, it can create an irritated, immune compromised surface in the gut, where unfriendly bacteria, yeast, or parasites can multiply without resistance from the immune system, due to its weakened state. Second, it can create lesions, similar to miniscule pinholes in the intestinal lining. These lesions allow larger than normal or not fully broken down protein molecules to seep from the intestines, into the bloodstream.
Once these undigested proteins enter the bloodstream, serious problems can result. The immune system responds to the molecules as if they were foreign invaders, and produces antibodies to help fight them off. These antibodies attack the protein molecules, but they also end up attacking the intestine itself. Which is why, in addition to various GI disorders, "leaky gut" syndrome has also been linked to autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
The war of the immune system against the invading protein particulates creates inflammation in and around the intestines. This warfare can result in excessive gas, fatigue, poor elimination, possibly diarrhea or constipation, and sets the perfect environment for food allergies and sensitivities to develop.
The affects of the syndrome can grow to epic proportions, to the point where one finds themselves hardly able to eat anything at all without having an allergic-type of reaction. Coupled with this is the inability to absorb necessary nutrients, leaving the body heavily depleted and susceptible to further illness. This process is called Gastrointestinal Hyperpermeable Membrane Syndrome, more common known as Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome leaves one vulnerable to disease. Aggravated by parasites, it can also develop from irritation caused by medications, antibiotics or NSAIDS such as Aspirin, Aleve, or Advil. Excessive use of herbal laxatives such as Cascara sagrada or Senna leaves can also cause problems. Leaky Gut Syndrome is sometimes the culprit behind various immune dysfunctions, auto-immune disorders, headaches, depression, allergies, skin rashes, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, among others. Leaky gut is often overlooked in conventional medicine; whereas an alternative or integrative Doctor would be highly aware of the signs and symptoms of this syndrome.