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IBS: What Causes It, and What You Should Do

IBS: What Causes It, and What You Should Do

10-15% - 50 million people. That is a large number, and it represents roughly how many people in the US are affected by IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Maybe you have heard of IBS before, but let's discuss here where it comes from and how you can address it.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon) and causes symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. The exact cause of IBS is not well understood, but it is believed to be a combination of several factors. Here are some potential reasons why some people suffer from IBS:

1. Altered gastrointestinal motility: People with IBS may have abnormal contractions of the colon, causing it to either contract too strongly (resulting in diarrhea) or too weakly (resulting in constipation). These irregular contractions can lead to changes in bowel habits and discomfort.

2. Increased sensitivity to pain: Individuals with IBS often have a heightened sensitivity to pain in the digestive system. The nerves in the gut may be overly responsive, amplifying normal sensations and causing abdominal pain or discomfort.

3. Intestinal inflammation: Low-grade inflammation in the intestines may contribute to IBS symptoms in some individuals. This inflammation can be triggered by various factors, such as an infection, food sensitivities, or an imbalanced gut microbiota.

4. Changes in gut microbiota: The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota. Imbalances in the composition of these bacteria and other microorganisms can affect gut function and may play a role in IBS. Diet, stress, medications, and other factors can influence the balance of gut bacteria.

5. Food intolerances and sensitivities: Some people with IBS experience symptoms triggered by certain foods or beverages. Common culprits include spicy foods, fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners. Food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance or fructose malabsorption, can also contribute to IBS symptoms.

6. Psychological factors: Emotional stress, anxiety, and depression can have an impact on digestive health. Many people with IBS report that stress worsens their symptoms. The brain and the gut are closely connected through the gut-brain axis, and disturbances in this communication system may contribute to IBS.

It probably doesn't come as a shock that there is no one size fits all approach to dealing with IBS as it's sources can vary so greatly- but here is a list of ways you potentially can help treat it.

While there is no known cure for IBS, several strategies can help individuals manage and regulate their symptoms.

Here are some approaches that may be helpful:

1. Dietary changes: Identifying and avoiding trigger foods can be beneficial. Keeping a food diary can help track which foods worsen symptoms, allowing you to make targeted adjustments. Common triggers include caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, spicy foods, and artificial sweeteners. Increasing dietary fiber, either through foods or supplements, may also help regulate bowel movements.

2. Stress management: Since stress and anxiety can exacerbate IBS symptoms, finding effective stress management techniques can be beneficial. Regular exercise, deep breathing exercises, meditation, and activities like yoga or tai chi can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.

3. Medications: Depending on the predominant symptoms, a healthcare professional may prescribe medications to help manage IBS. For example, antispasmodic medications can reduce intestinal muscle contractions and relieve abdominal pain. Anti-diarrheal medications or laxatives may be recommended for diarrhea or constipation, respectively. Probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria, can also be used to help restore balance in the gut microbiota.

4. Lifestyle modifications: Making certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms. This includes getting regular exercise, establishing a consistent sleep routine, and staying hydrated. Avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption is also recommended.

5. Psychological support: Since IBS can have a psychological component, seeking support from a mental health professional can be beneficial. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other types of psychotherapy can help individuals manage stress, anxiety, and depression related to IBS.

6. Alternative therapies: Some individuals find relief from IBS symptoms through alternative therapies like acupuncture, hypnotherapy, or herbal remedies. While the evidence for their effectiveness is limited, they may be worth exploring if conventional approaches are not providing sufficient relief.

Besides all that- what can you do today if you are "stuck?"

Here is a list of some time tested herbal laxatives- all found in an array of our colon care products.

1. Senna: Senna is a plant that contains compounds called anthraquinones, which have a laxative effect. It is one of the most widely used herbal laxatives. Senna works by stimulating the muscles in the intestines, promoting bowel movements. It is generally considered effective for short-term use but should not be used chronically without medical supervision.

2. Cascara Sagrada: Cascara sagrada is another plant containing anthraquinones. Like senna, it stimulates intestinal contractions and promotes bowel movements. It is also commonly used as a laxative. However, long-term or excessive use of cascara sagrada can lead to dependence and electrolyte imbalances.

3. Psyllium: Psyllium husk is a natural fiber derived from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. It is often used as a bulk-forming laxative, meaning it absorbs water in the intestines and adds bulk to the stool, facilitating easier passage. Psyllium is generally considered safe and effective for relieving constipation, but it's important to drink plenty of water when taking it to prevent dehydration.

4. Flaxseed: Flaxseed is a good source of dietary fiber and contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber in flaxseed can help soften the stool and promote regular bowel movements. It can be used as a mild laxative, but its laxative effect may not be as strong as other herbal options.

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