It is estimated that up to 40% of all gastroenterologist visits are due to IBS symptoms. Keep reading to learn how to spot IBS symptoms and what you can do about it.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Because there are various root causes of IBS, there are also a wide range of symptoms that may be present. Some important symptoms to look out for include:
Pain, cramping, and/or bloating in the lower abdomen
Changes in the appearance and frequency of bowel movement (possible diarrhea or constipation depending on IBS type)
Mucus present in stool
Discomfort associated with a bowel movement
How is IBS Diagnosed?
If you suspect IBS may be the culprit of your gastrointestinal issues, your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist can officially diagnose you. IBS is commonly referred to as a disease or disorder of exclusion, meaning your care team will try to rule out other diseases like Celiac Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, parasites, colon cancer, and others. Though there is no definitive test for IBS, there are a few criteria that are commonly used for diagnosis are listed below.
Criteria for Diagnosis:
Abdominal pain/discomfort at least one day a week for the last 3 months
PLUS at least 2 of the following:
Pain/discomfort during bowel movements
Change in bowel movement frequency
Change in stool appearance/consistency
How to Treat IBS (and SIBO)
IBS symptoms are most commonly treated by antibiotics, antimicrobials, and/or antifungals that can help push the overgrowth out of the small intestine. The ‘cleared out’ small intestine is maintained by promotility agents, when necessary and going on a temporary elimination diet such as low FODMAP, low histamine, low sulfur, or low yeast.
FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) are highly fermentable carbohydrates which, if left undigested, are broken down by bacteria and archaea in our colon, resulting in production of hydrogen or methane gas in the small or large intestine. In the case of IBS (and SIBO), this breakdown of FODMAP foods by microbes can cause uncomfortable bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements. Eliminating these foods often reduces these symptoms.
Low sulfur diets are meant to reduce intake of sulfur, commonly found in proteins and high sulfur foods, such as allium vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. The sulfur these foods contain is used as a food source for sulfur-reducing bacteria that can move into the small or large intestine, to make hydrogen sulfide gas, which can cause abdominal cramping, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, gas that can smell like rotten eggs, and messy stool that wipes like peanut butter.
Low histamine diets seek to reduce intake of dietary histamine, present in foods that contain small seeds, are aged or dried, or ripen aggressively and quickly, to name a few. These histamines can be poorly broken down in the small intestine, causing abdominal pain, bloating, excessive gas, constipation, or diarrhea. If someone is already struggling with histamine overload due to environmental histamine from seasonal changes, excessive stress, yeast overgrowth, hormones, poor liver health, or leaky gut, reducing dietary histamine and working on the gut barrier can be helpful.
A low yeast and fungus diet can be helpful for those with yeast overgrowth in the small intestine or large intestine who may be struggling with extreme bloat; constipation; oral thrush; ear and nasal congestion/ fullness; and/or anal, vaginal, ear, or nasal itch. Reducing external yeast and fungus coming from mushrooms, moldy cheeses, nutritional yeast, yeast in breads, or yeast extract in spices can help reduce fungal overgrowth symptoms.
Please note that restrictive diets, like Low-FODMAP, low sulfur, low histamine, and low yeast are ONLY meant to be temporary (up to 6 weeks in the elimination phase) and target the symptoms but NOT the root cause of the problem!
The goal when treating IBS (and SIBO/ IMO/ SIFO) should be to uncover the underlying cause and treat gut dysbiosis directly. Remember, IBS is a personalized disease affected by a multitude of factors like your genetics, environment, and lifestyle choices. A knowledgeable registered dietitian trained in gut health can help you and your team identify what’s causing your symptoms, develop an individualized protocol to heal your gut dysbiosis, and help you reintroduce formerly eliminated foods back into your diet at the right time.
How to Nurture Your #GoodGut
Supporting a well balanced and flowing gut microbiome is key in preventing and treating IBS and other gastrointestinal issues. Eating a diet rich in a variety of plants, exercising regularly, and developing other healthy lifestyle habits will help nurture your gut microbiome and keep it functioning optimally. While a food-first approach should be prioritized, there are various supports that can help rebalance the gut microbiome, support the gut barrier, and increase gut motility. We’ve taken the guesswork out of choosing the right supplements and formulated Gut Nurture, a powder made of high-quality, pure ingredients that are 3rd party tested and formulated to help your gut microbiome grow and flourish. This unique blend of low-FODMAP soluble prebiotic fiber, pre-fermented B vitamins, molybdenum, ginger and licorice root extract, horse chestnut, and postbiotics is the perfect complement to your diet to help nourish your #GoodGut and support you on your gut healing journey so you can ‘Heal With Each Meal’.
Looking for Low-FODMAP, low histamine, low sulfur, and low yeast Recipes?
We at Married to Health have a ton of delicious recipes to help you get started on your gut-healing journey! You can find them here. We will also be re-releasing our SIBO/IBS program, offering 6 week meal plans with each of these specialized diets to support you on your SIBO/IBS journey.
In Best Gut Health,
James Marin, RD, EN & Dahlia Marin, RDN, LD, CGN
Integrative Registered Dietitians
Plant Based Specialists
Gut Health Specialists
Co-Founders @Married to Health
We hope you continue to ‘Heal with Each Meal’!
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Moe E. Pt. 1 IBS awareness: How do you know when you have IBS? Married to Health. https://www.marriedtohealth.com/post/pt-1-ibs-awareness-how-do-you-know-when-you-have-ibs. Published April 8, 2022. Accessed April 26, 2023.
Moe E. Pt. 2 IBS awareness: What are the causes of IBS? Married to Health. https://www.marriedtohealth.com/post/pt-2-ibs-awareness-what-are-the-causes-of-ibs. Published April 15, 2022. Accessed April 26, 2023.
Moe E. Pt. 3 IBS awareness: IBS solutions: Ways to have a #goodgut without the #gutguilt! Married to Health. https://www.marriedtohealth.com/post/pt-3-ibs-awareness-ibs-solutions-ways-to-have-a-goodgut-without-the-gutguilt. Published April 22, 2022. Accessed April 26, 2023.
What is IBS? About IBS. https://aboutibs.org/what-is-ibs/. Published March 23, 2023. Accessed April 26, 2023.
Vo, T. (2023, February 13). What is Gut Nurture? Married to Health. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.marriedtohealth.com/post/what-is-gut-nurture