IBS is one of the most common digestive orders and one of the most common disorders we see in our office. It is so common, in fact, that most people don't seek resolution for this issue, nor do they even see it as a medical issue. Many simply accept this as an inconvenience and just part of "who they are," when in reality, there is an underlying cause which can be identified and resolved.
Irritable bowel is a disorder that affects the large intestine causing cramps, #abdominalpain, bloating, gas, and #diarrhea or constipation, or both. Often suffers of irritable bowel are well versed in where every local restroom is at any particular event or outing because they have learned to be prepared. Irritable bowel doesn't cause changes in the tissue of the bowel or seem to increase your risk of colon cancer, and it isn't diagnosed by colonoscopy, blood tests, or MRI. It's what the medical profession considers a "functional bowel disorder," but certainly, as a functional medicine clinician, our goal is to reduce inflammation in your body which is the root cause of disease, and ultimately irritable bowel syndrome.
How Do I Know if I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
In the last three months, have you experienced abdominal pain at least once a week, and your symptoms initiated at least six months previously? Do your symptoms improve with defecation? Do your symptoms seem to relate to a change in frequency of your stool or a change in form or appearance? This may not be pain necessarily, but an uncomfortable sensation.
Generally, individuals with irritable bowel fall into one of four main subtypes: mostly #constipation, mostly diarrhea, both constipation and diarrhea, or unclassified.
Gut Brain Connection
We know there is a gut-brain connection, which means many clinicians will simply explain that your symptoms are related to stress, leaving it there. However, why ignore ongoing inflammation in either the gut or brain? Why not work to identify the trigger? When your body sends you signals such as these, it isn't really great practice to ignore or pacify them.
You may be experiencing a motility issue, a visceral hypersensitivity, altered mucosal and immune function, altered gut microbiota, or altered central nervous system processing or even a combination of these issues. When we have motility issues, our food and waste don't move through our bowels normally. When we have visceral hypersensitivity we are much more aware of sensations in the gut, and have increased pain. Our barrier system, our gut lining, may also be altered which impacts our immune system. We often refer to this as leaky gut which relates to food sensitivities. Infections, whether bacterial, parasitic, or fungal can also cause discomfort in the bowel, sometimes diagnosed as #SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Finally, the central nervous system, our brains and spinal cord, can play a role via the vagus nerve. Trauma and stress definitely play an impact, which can cause our body to be exceedingly sensitive to perceived threats.
Multibillion Dollar Gold Mine
When I share this, what I mean is that we know that IBS is extremely common and extremely difficult to manage. Migraines are quite similar, as is fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Anxiety would fit into this category as well, along with A.D.D. Quality of life is reduced. Referrals to gastroenterologists (20 percent of their clientele) aren't often helpful, other than ruling out significant disease, but certainly are quite expensive.
Pharmaceutical companies though certainly profit. Are they fixing the underlying problem though? If the medication must be continually consumed, has the issue resolved or are we just dulling the symptoms and allowing the inflammation to continue to wreak havoc on our body?
What We Offer for Resolution
Irritable bowel typically requires a systems approach, which is where the functional medicine specializes. We will address issues of motility, sensation, immune function, the microflora, and your diet. We will also evaluate your limbic system, which targets stress reduction, understanding the role your personality plays and your past traumas, evaluating coping skills and your social support. Our office has a plethora of resources in this regard. Genetics, culture, and your environment can also play a role, so we will help you work through your epigenetic profile to better understand where you are at risk and how you can manipulate that for optimal health.
We are one of very few offices offering a food sensitivity screening that not only identifies triggering food, but quantifies that so we know to exactly what degree, but also which foods are not inflammatory. We can then individualize a diet specific to your results so you can eliminate exposures causing inflammation rather than simply removing the red flags identified, but potentially still exposing yourself to others which weren't tested. Our testing is also the only test available for evaluating chemicals and dyes. It is one of the most successful interventions our practice has utilized in the past decade of functional and integrative health.
We also focus a great deal on healing the limbic system which is overlooked in many functional and integrative practices, and essentially all conventional medicine models. If your body perceives that you are constantly under threat which may be financial, relationship, work, or whatever, it really hasn't the awareness if this is a saber tooth tiger or just our modern day society so will launch full combat warfare scanning for threats on every front. Your body can't heal, repair, and grow in this state. Further, the longer you experience this constant state of fight-or-flight, the more efficient your body becomes because that aspect of your brain enlarges, much like your thighs when you do squats consistently. Our work will include helping you come out of that triage state, into a state of healing.
If this interests you, book a history consultation with our nurse practitioner, Dr. Layne. She specializes in functional and integrative medicine and has more than two decades experience as a healthcare provider. If you are already an Eden Member, peek at member benefits and schedule your MRT consult directly. Otherwise, feel free to book a free group session, "Meet the Doc," to discuss this option more thoroughly.