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What Causes IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

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Have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel, or IBS? Or maybe you suspect that you have IBS? Are you seeking answers to the question “What causes IBS?”

You are experiencing one or more symptoms of constipation / diarrhoea / bloating / gas and / or cramping. Your doctor has maybe prescribed some meds to control the symptoms but otherwise been of little help?

The medical profession is beginning to understand more of what causes IBS, such as SIBO (Small intestine bacterial overgrowth), infection, inflammation and abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive tract. However, you may be better to talk to your Functional Medicine Practitioner or Naturopathic Doctor about causes and solutions.

How I First Learned That Food Allergies Cause IBS; My Story

I was 33yrs old when IBS hit me… Up until then I had not had any digestive issues other than cramps if I drank glasses of milk, and suddenly I was in the washroom multiple times, usually at short notice and experiencing terrible diarrhoea, cramps and gas. Everywhere I went the first thing I did was find out where the closest washroom was located.. sound familiar?

When my doctor diagnosed IBS, I asked “So, what causes IBS?”

He said vaguely, “Oh, could be anything..” When I asked about allergies, he stated categorically that there was no possible link between allergies and IBS, and prescribed meds to control the cramping and diarrhoea.

On the suggestion of a friend, I had an Allergy test. It came up positive for yeast, cow’s milk products including cheese (I was a BIG cheese fan) and wheat. I immediately cut these foods out of my diet and within 48hrs felt almost completely normal. What a relief!

My doctor was very skeptical. However, I knew that just a few mouthfuls of bread or one glass of wine, which contains a lot of yeast, and I would be in the washroom for most of the next morning.

Top Food Allergens for IBS

The top food allergens I have found for IBS include wheat, corn, soy, yeast, milk and eggs. However, we are all unique individuals, there is no one size fits all and you can be reacting to any of the foods you are ingesting.

A true allergy causes an immune response and will trigger an almost immediate reaction. Once that food has been eliminated from your system you will likely feel much better.

If you have intolerance to a food the reaction will be slower. There is no immediate immune response, it is more an issues with digesting, breaking down and absorbing the food. The reaction can actually take several days to reach a peak. This makes it quite difficult to work out what is triggering your reactions as it may be nothing you ate today, or even yesterday.

Identifying Food Allergies That Cause IBS

There are a number of ways to test.

Elimination Diet

You can try an elimination diet, removing suspected foods and monitoring the result. After a trial period without the foods you reintroduce them one at a time. It can be difficult to obtain definite answers, especially where you are reacting to several foods – eliminating one brings little relief as you are still reacting to others.

Blood Testing

Your family doctor or a naturopathic doctor can requisition a blood test which looks for antibodies to certain foods. You have to be eating the allergens in your every day diet in order to be tested. This means that if you have removed, say, wheat, and then want to find out if you are Celiac the doctor will ask that eat it for several weeks or even months prior to testing.

I have found blood testing to be reasonably accurate for allergies, but that it can provide false negatives for intolerances and emotional reactions to foods where there is no immune response.

Skin Prick Testing

Skin testing can also provide answers. Your family doctor will need to refer you to a medical allergist to have this done. In my practice I have found this method great for identifying bigger allergies, but have also seen cases where the skin showed no reaction even though there is a strong reaction when eating that food.

Muscle Response Testing, Autonomic Response Testing, Applied Kinesiology

All names for the same thing.. As a Natural Allergist I prefer to use this method. It utilizes the body’s response to potential allergens and can assess allergies, intolerances and emotional reactions to foods. It is an effective way of asking the body to tell us what it likes and does not like. It has the added benefit that you do not have to be eating the allergens in order to be tested and results are immediately available.

Whichever method you choose having an allergy test can provide much needed answers and, as in my case, bring enormous relief from your IBS symptoms.

If you want to find out more about the triggers for IBS come for a complementary discovery session with me or one of my colleagues at Ottawa Holistic Wellness.

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