At Vivante, we’re the digestive health experts. We live for this stuff. Here’s a short summary of another academic article our gut health nerds found interesting…
“We can’t find anything wrong with you.”
“The test results are all negative.”
“It’s probably just stress. If you just relax you’ll feel better.”
These are some of the discouraging things people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often hear before or even just after getting their diagnosis.
One of the most frustrating things about IBS is the lack of physical proof of the disorder. With sudden, unpredictable symptoms that come and go and no blood test to diagnose it, it’s easy for people to discount IBS as being “all in your head.”
Debunking the Myth
In fact, IBS is classified as a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. Although no visible inflammation or abnormal tissue is usually seen through diagnostic testing, that does not mean there’s nothing physically wrong with people who have IBS. Far from it. IBS causes debilitating physical symptoms that significantly impact quality of life. Excessive gas, bloating, pain, fatigue, and bouts of diarrhea and constipation are the most common. So where does the idea that it’s all in your head come from? Misunderstanding.
The brain and the digestive system are intimately linked. And when you stop and think about it, that makes total sense. When we’re full, the stomach sends a message to the brain saying, “Hey, I’m good. Put the fork down.” That’s how we know when to stop eating.
But signals travel the other way, too. When your brain knows you’re in immediate danger, for example, you don’t feel hungry. Your brain turns off digestion so you can fully focus on your other senses and awareness.
What does all this mean? Well, it’s proof the GI tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation—all these feelings can trigger symptoms in the gut. It’s a two-way communication channel known as the gut-brain connection.
Figuring out IBS
But just because the gut-brain connection exists, DOES NOT mean IBS is a “head problem.” Yes, symptoms can be tied to emotion, and reducing stress can certainly help improve symptoms. But that’s not the only solution.
As the article below suggests, many other things may play a role in IBS, for example, the gut microbiome (aka the bacteria living in the GI tract). In studying people with IBS, researchers found several links between gut bacteria and IBS:
- Excessive fermentation: This is often a sign of bacterial overgrowth in the GI tract.
- Excessive gas: Another indication that certain bacteria are overpopulating the gut.
- Abnormal breath tests compared to healthy individuals: Too much hydrogen and methane in the breath is a sign of adverse reactions to a food, which is also linked to the bacteria in the gut.
- Improvement of IBS symptoms with certain antibiotics: When IBS symptoms go away after taking antibiotics, well, it’s a sign that certain gut bacteria may have been the culprit.
Like any other medical condition, IBS is one that requires treatment, patience and understanding. If you have or suspect you have IBS, becoming informed and having open, two-way communication with your providers is so important.
Original article: Irritable bowel syndrome: Is it “irritable brain” or “irritable bowel”?