Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)! Two common digestive issues that share many symptoms.
Symptoms for both are chronic and ongoing however IBD is a different health condition, with structural changes and requires different management, whereas IBS has no structural manifestations.
Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis
So there are two forms of IBD, Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s disease, both are Autoimmune Conditions causing chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestines where tiny sores (ulcers) are found on the surface layers of the bowel lining and Crohn’s disease occurs anywhere from the mouth to anus creating ulcers in the gut lining and can extend the entire thickness of the bowel wall!
How does IBS affect the body?
IBS and IBD can be experienced at the same time, so it can be hard to determine at early onset where the issue is. IBS is viewed as a functional gastrointestinal disorder, an umbrella label for various gut symptoms such as – bloating, alternating constipation/diarrhoea, gas, pain, food Intolerances, when no other diagnosis is established. If you suffer these symptoms you are not alone, IBS effects about 1 in 5 Australians, and the frustrating thing is that on investigations no issues are found and this is because IBS is not a structural problem.
So when investigating IBS it’s important to identify the potential underlying causes such as food intolerances, stress, alterations to the gut microbiome, motility issues, leaky gut and more! Diagnosis is usually associated with high levels of pathogenic bacteria specifically (Enterobacteriaceae) and low levels of beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus and bifidobacteria).
SIBO (Small intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth) has become a hot topic recently and current data reveals the significance of SIBO as an underlying factor of IBS. Our blog post explains in detail the complexities of SIBO read here – SIBO. Ideally working with a practitioner will help you segregate where your symptoms fit and identify the root cause to restore the gut, with the most straight forward approaches.
Similarities between IBD and IBS?
- Abdominal Pain
- Alternating bowel movements – Diarrhoea/Constipation
- Inflammation of digestive tract
IBD is a chronic Autoimmune disease, ranging from mild to severe, with times of flares up when the immune system is not functionally at its optimal. During IBD flare ups severe symptoms affect everyday life so main aim is to reduce the severity and rate of the episodes so you can stay in a remission state. IBS can be aggravated by stress, alteration of beneficial flora within the intestines and a recent GI tract infection, food intolerance or hormonal imbalances, identifying the main trigger of these symptoms by the process of elimination and challenge is one way to begin to improve symptoms.
|IBD Symptoms||IBS Symptoms|
Possible causes of IBD?
Immune System Dysregulation – Starting with the gut microbiome! Balance of gut flora is key (please note you can be born with a microbiome that is already on the back foot!). Anything out of whack means our immunity will be compromised creating inflammation and other immune responses. Gut infections have been shown to initiate both the onset and flare up of IBD according to new research!
Genetic predisposition – Any family member with the disease increases your risk of developing IBD!
Dietary factors – We know by now the connection our gut health plays in our overall health! Eating a well-balanced whole foods diet is key, avoiding processed foods, additives, refined foods and limiting dairy intake if lactose intolerant is must, studies have proven a link between cows milk and IBD (check with your practitioner if you need to take a calcium supplement)!
Stress Influences – Stress effects the gut, in fact so much so that it can increase and decrease transit time and be a contributing factor to exacerbation of your symptoms through the brain-gut axis and intestinal immune response.
Movement – Exercise helps the muscle tone of the gut!
What can I do to help my IBD?
Crohn’s disease can seriously affect your everyday life and be quite painful and because there is no known cure for it, aside from pharmaceutical relief, its important to know how to get relief using a natural approach, which are working toward improving underlying causes.
- Probiotics/prebiotic foods
- Plenty of anti-inflammatory foods (Omega 3s, Turmeric)
- Slippery elm
- Stay hydrated
- Gaps between meals
- Avoid excess fibre (in fact cooked food may be needed initially)
- Relaxation techniques (keep stress in check)
The gut is a pretty complicated place but practical and natural approaches have a massive influence!
Warner, A. S., & Barto, A. E. (2010). 100 questions & answers about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis: a Lahey Clinic guide (2nd ed.). Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.