5 Simple Steps to Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Functional Medicine Tampa

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder within the gastrointestinal tract that is characterized by the presence of pain in the abdomen, and an altered gut flora or environment. It’s true cause isn’t quite clear, but research has provided us with information to better understand causal factors to consider, and how best to approach treatment, and overall healing the bowel! 

In today’s article I hope to provide you some clarity around this condition from the Functional Medicine approach, and of course practical lifestyle tips you can utilize to ensure you are taking the best care of your gut health!

Common Symptoms of IBS

IBS is a bit scattered in terms of how it is expressed in an individual. Which actually makes total sense to us in the FM world – each person is unique, so too are symptoms or presentation. There are 3 different subtypes of IBS, constipation-dominant, diarrhea-dominant, and mixed IBS. Most patients diagnosed with IBS, (using the ROME IV Criteria) will have pain in their abdomen at least 1 day a week for 3+ months, in addition to pain associated with their bowel movements, changes in bowel movement frequency, as well as consistency.  Other common symptoms are:

  • Bloating/Distension
  • Excessive Flatulence
  • 3+ bowel movements per day (diarrhea dominant)
  • Less than 3 bowel movements in a week (constipation dominant) 

Causal Factors to Consider 

Dysbiosis, or altered gut flora/bacteria – Our intestinal tracts need certain amounts of healthy bifidobacteria and lactobacilli to keep our digestion running smoothly. And the ratios are important as well. When these are off balance, inflammation, bloating, altered bowel movements ensue! Why? Because our body responds to unhealthy changes with inflammation in order to trigger the healing process. However, we HAVE to do what we can to reduce what is causing that dysbiosis and causing that inflammation in order for true healing to occur and revive our optimal health. 

Chronic, low-grade inflammation – which as you may be able to tell from above, goes hand-in-hand with dysbiosis! Inflammation is our immune system’s response to something that is “wrong” or “out of order.” The body’s goal is always homeostasis, so the unfortunate result when our internal environment is off, is that our body will always compensate or send us signals (often uncomfortable signals) to inform us that something is wrong, and hopefully get us to look into how to fix the root cause. That way, it can get back to homeostasis and continue thriving! In the case of IBS, a Tums or laxative will sadly not satisfy this, only cover it up while the inflammation persists underneath.

Risk Factors to be Aware of

Antibiotic Use – We all know that antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections when we are sick, but the sad consequence of taking them is that they also kill off lots of our good bacteria needed for healthy digestion, immune function, the health of our intestinal lining. 

Stress and Mental Health – studies have shown a link between stressful life events, as well as depression or anxiety, with the onset of IBS or flare ups (1). Further emphasizing what is known as the Gut-Brain Axis! 

What can you do if some of these things resonated with you and think you may have IBS?

Seek healthcare advice! We would be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss the concerns you’re having. Our primary objectives would be to help you normalize your gut flora, normalize your bowel movements, decrease the inflammation that is going on, and potentially some other more specific approaches that are appropriate for you as an individual. Getting you on a path to optimal health!

Track your bowel movements; frequency, consistency, everything. The more clarity you have around your bowel patterns, the easier it is for healthcare providers, like ourselves at STRONGLIFE, to help form the best plan of action for YOU and your gut health.

Probiotics, probiotics, probiotics. There are a myriad of reasons to take a quality probiotic for general health but especially if you have some gastrointestinal issues going on. If you’re unsure of which ones might be best suited for you, we would gladly help with that!

Form a stress management routine for yourself. Whether it includes meditation, breathing exercises, or time for self-care like a message or buying yourself flowers, find ways that help you cope with the stressors present in your life. 

Be mindful of your fiber intake. Generally speaking, most Americans aren’t getting enough, but you also don’t want to add too much too soon when you’re already having gut disturbances. Start small, choose 1 fibrous food at a time to incorporate for a week or so, then build from there. Some good ones to start with are – berries, kiwi, spinach, collard greens, flax seeds. 

At STRONGLIFE Functional Medicine in Lithia, FL, Dr. Justin Scott can help you address any underlying issues, whether you realize they’re there or not, and improve your overall health.

“I hope that you found this as valuable as my patients have over the years. If you’re interested in a patient-centered process that takes into account all aspects that affect your health, then I would encourage to visit our website at www.stronglifefunctionalmedicine.com to see how we help our patients improve their health and to find if you are a good candidate for a Functional Medicine approach.”

Resources: 1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.01.032

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