The actual cause of IBS is unknown but the more you understand and are aware of triggers and contributing factors the better you can manage your symptoms. This article, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, from the Mayo Clinic can be helpful in that regard.
Neurotransmitters: The intestinal muscles in IBS respond differently from healthy intestinal muscles in a number of ways causing diarrhea in some people and constipation in others. There is evidence that this is due to abnormal serotonin levels in the gut. This is why antidepressants (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are often prescribed.
Abnormal Gut Bacteria: There are likely other factors besides serotonin that create abnormal motility, sensitivity and pain. One possibility is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut. For many people, probiotics are helpful.
One thing I learned recently about taking probiotics is that a rotation of 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off appears to be the most effective for restoring healthy digestive flora.
Foods: Many but not all people with IBS respond negatively to certain foods. Not all people who are sensitive are sensitive to the same foods. If it is obvious what food is causing the problem it is easy to avoid it. However, most of the time it is not obvious. The role of food sensitivity is not well understood in the West. However, in Korean Constitutional Medicine, the sensitivity to certain foods is usually related to your inherent constitution.
Sometimes what appears to be IBS is actually a food intolerance. Discovering what it is and eliminating it from your diet can resolve your digestive symptoms, for instance lactose intolerance is sometimes diagnosed as IBS. Lactose intolerance can be managed simply by avoiding dairy products. However, even with true IBS, the frequency and severity of symptoms can be reduced by eating the right foods for your Constitutional type.
Hormones: More women than men have IBS. Women often experience a worsening of symptoms around their periods. Even in women without IBS, certain foods are often found to worsen menstrual symptoms and avoiding foods that trigger IBS may also reduce the effect of hormonal cycles on your menstrual symptoms.
Stress: It is obvious that stress aggravates symptoms but it doesn’t cause IBS. Actually having IBS is likely to add to your stress. Practicing meditation, yoga, qigong or tai chi can all be helpful. But being able to effectively manage your IBS will reduce stress as much as anything else.
For more information, check out my previous blog “Do You Have IBS?”
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for personal, professional, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.