Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common, chronic gut disorder. It’s found throughout the world. It’s estimated that between 7-15% of people in Western countries suffer with the disorder, although it’s also thought to be significantly underreported. More women than men are affected. The abdominal bloating and pain commonly associated with IBS can be excruciating. This, together with other common symptoms, can make your life a misery. Yet we know that gut health is crucial for our health. All nutrients contained in food we consume are absorbed through the gut wall. Where IBS impedes nutrient absorption, our health is bound to suffer. At Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford, we strive hard to improve your gut health. Our acupuncture, Chinese herbs, dietary, nutritional, supplement and lifestyle support approaches are geared towards reducing your symptoms and optimising your gut function. Want to reduce pain, bloating and other symptoms? Call Advance Clinic and learn to enjoy mealtimes again.
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is classed as a functional bowel disorder. This means that, for one reason or another, movement through the bowel is disrupted and this leads to the typical symptoms of the disorder. The major symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Constipation and diarrhoea, or some combination of these
- Loss of appetite
- Urinary pain, frequency or urgency
Depending on the patient, IBS symptoms can vary greatly in intensity. This is both between patients and through time in any given patient.
A functional bowel disorder like IBS needs to be carefully distinguished from inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, where systemic inflammation affecting the bowel causes ulceration and structural abnormalities to varying degrees of severity. It also needs to be differentiated from other potential causes of diarrhoea or constipation, such as direct dietary causes, infections, adverse drug reactions, hormonal disorders and neurological conditions etc.
In medical terms, IBS is classed as a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’. This means that it’s normally only diagnosed when other (often more serious) conditions have already been ruled out.
What Are The Causes of IBS?
This is a hotly debated topic and at this stage more research is required before we can say for sure what the cause or causes of IBS is or are. Nevertheless, the following appear to be some potential candidates:
- SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth
- Gut dysbiosis or disruption to the normally-present/beneficial gut bacteria
- Food intolerances and sensitivities, including gluten, grains and dairy
- Use of antibiotics
- Untreated gut infections
It’s crucial to note that the above factors are not wholly distinct from one another. More than one factor can be present in any given individual at any given time.
SIBO occurs when our normally-present and beneficial gut bacteria start to migrate from the large intestine into the small intestine. It’s believed that factors such as abnormal gut muscle contractions and even low stomach acid aggravate this process.
In the small intestine where they do not belong, the bacteria can start to interfere with nutrient absorption and cause signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal disturbance, such as abdominal gas, bloating and pain. They can also interfere with production of the ‘feel-good’ chemical serotonin which helps to stabilise our mood. A significant proportion of this important chemical is produced in the gut. Disruption to serotonin production can have a profound effect on mood, for example, creating the potential for feelings of low mood, anxiety or stress. Mood disturbance is commonly associated with both SIBO and IBS.
The current scientific research evidence suggests a definite link between SIBO and IBS, but not an obvious one-to-one cause and effect relationship. What we do know is that meta-analyses of the scientific data carried out in 2009 and 2012 agreed that the incidence of SIBO is higher in IBS patients and that treatment for SIBO can lead to a modest improvement in IBS symptoms.
Gut dysbiosis simply means imbalance in our gut bacteria. Beneficial types of bacteria are normally permanently present in our gut. They are increasingly viewed as playing a variety of crucial roles in many areas of body physiology, including metabolism, nutrient absorption, vitamin synthesis and immunity.
Imbalance in our gut bacteria (meaning a shift towards a preponderance of less beneficial types of gut bacteria) is now being linked to a host of gut disorders, including IBS. It’s also being linked to increased risk of developing certain disorders outside of the gut, such as obesity and diabetes.
In a large proportion of those with IBS, gut dysbiosis is a close association. Antibiotic use is one driver for creating imbalances in gut bacteria, as may be poor diet and associated food sensitivities and intolerances.
Stomach acid is important for destroying bad bacteria and other infective agents which enter our bodies through the mouth. Low stomach acid is a common problem and becomes increasingly so as we age. Consequently, gut infections are also common. A number of studies have demonstrated a relationship between acute viral, bacterial and protozoal infections and the subsequent onset of IBS symptoms. Infectious agents associated with IBS include campylobacter and giardia lamblia.
Conventional Medical Treatment of IBS
In addition to dietary and other advice, conventional medical treatment of IBS is centred on medications. The main medications used include:
Used singly or in combination, these medications aim at treating only the symptoms of IBS. They do not target the underlying cause or causes.
These drugs can produce side-effects which, in some cases, mimic those of IBS. Antidiarrhoeals, for example, can cause gas and bloating, while antispasmodics can aggravate constipation. Certain of the medications can also lead to SIBO. As mentioned above, SIBO is one possible underlying cause or aggravating factor in IBS!
The bottom line is that many IBS sufferers report experiencing little or no relief with the conventional medications on offer. Additionally, adverse events are sometimes severe. The efficacy of these drug therapies is therefore limited.
Whatever the underlying triggers for your IBS, at Advance Clinic we’ll want to improve your gut health. This is crucial if we’re to help reduce your symptoms. One important consideration will be the health of your gut flora or gut bacteria. The microbes in our gut perform an incredible array of crucial functions, including in relation to metabolism, gut function, absorption of nutrients and immunity. Gut health is therefore central to your overall health and sense of wellbeing, both physical and mental-emotional. Our tried-and-tested acupuncture, Chinese herbs and lifestyle approaches reflect this and give your gut the attention it deserves.
Dealing Successfully With IBS at Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford
We’ve seen plenty of patients suffering with IBS, sometimes for years. We know just how debilitating, depressing and anxiety-provoking it can be for you.
Perhaps it stops you from doing things in life you want to do? Perhaps embarrassment holds you back? Well, no more!
Often you’ll come to us already having obtained your IBS diagnosis. From there, there’s a variety of ways in which Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford can help:
- Blood tests – we can refer you for relevant blood tests if indicated
- Chinese herbs
- Specific dietary advice based on functional medicine principles – to help relieve your IBS symptoms
- Nutritional supplementation, probiotics and herbal advice
- Relaxation technique advice – especially useful where stress is a trigger for you
- Lifestyle advice – to promote good sleep, effective exercise patterns and mental relaxation, all of which can help reduce the symptoms of IBS
Our patients have found this type of combined therapeutic approach highly effective for optimising gut function, reducing symptoms and generally promoting a sense of wellbeing.
Acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs therapy augments our dietary, nutritional and lifestyle advice in the following ways:
- By helping reduce the pain and bloating you might commonly experience with IBS
- By helping to regularise bowel movements and reduce diarrhoea and constipation
- By helping reduce the mental-emotional effects of IBS i.e., anxiety, low mood or stress
Advance Clinic can do so much for you. Your Hertford acupuncture specialist is committed to reducing your symptoms and helping you enjoy food again. Why not call us today if that sounds good to you.
Ready to banish pain and other symptoms? Ready to get active again?
Let us help you experience all round health, all year round! For quality advice and safe, effective treatment,
Call Advance Clinic Now:01992-535970