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What does a diagnosis of IBS mean?

October 2019

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a functional bowel disorder, defined by a cluster of symptoms with no structural or biochemical indicated reason. Wow, what a mouthful right? To put it simply, what that means is IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion. Once everything else is tested for; such as Chron’s, Ulcerative Colitis or Coeliac Disease and are not indicated, IBS is the diagnosis. And it can be present differently from person to person. The symptoms include abdominal cramping, bloating, flatulence, nausea, fatigue, altered bowel motions and even back pain.

Contributing factors of IBS

In my opinion there are 4 main contributing factors to IBS, and honestly they are so interlinked.

  1. Dominant Sympathetic Nervous System
    This is usually seen in those that suffer from anxiety. People who are living with a dominant SNS are in a state of constant fight or flight. Which amongst other things, decreases digestion and pumps blood to the muscles in preparation of running away from something. The impact on digestion is that everything slows down. Food that slowly moves through your system leads to an increase in gas production, a back-up of bowel movements which then re-absorbs and re-circulates some of the toxins your body is trying to excrete, leading to an inflamed and irritated state.
  2. Serotonin Issues
    About 95% of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) is located in the digestive tract. Serotonin stimulates our nervous system to initiate secretion and peristalsis (a squeezing, movement of the gut – think of milking a cow). Too much serotonin leads to diarrhoea, too little leads to constipation. These issues can be from a variety of things, inflammation, gene polymorphisms, stress, food intolerances and even party drug use (amphetamines).
  3. Alterations to Gut Flora
    Ahhhh the gut. My precious. And the most common cause of IBS. So many diet and lifestyle factors impact our gut. Such as antibiotic use, the pill, paracetamol, stress, poor diet, and alcohol. Ultimately they all lead to gut flora that may have more dominant pathogenic bacteria, such as an overgrowth of candida or SIBO.
  4. Food Intolerances
    Undiagnosed food intolerances often are the catalyst for many digestive complaints. Inflammation of the mucosa in the digestive tract (everyone has mucous, it’s how our food slides through our digestive tract) may cause further intolerances and as such the cycle continues.

What can you do?

If you have been diagnosed with IBS, seek out a healthcare practitioner that can guide you through the initial diagnosis. They will help you discover what foods you are reacting too. Simplify your diet, reduce the inflammation and then slowly reintroduce some foods.

You need to be patient. Your symptoms and diagnosis didn’t come overnight (I know you’ve been ignoring them for a while!) and your healing won’t either. Stick with the changes and modifications you receive. Understand there will be setbacks, sometimes you’ll feel like you’ve taken two steps forward and one step back. Be patient, kind to yourself and you will feel better, plus you’ll know your triggers and how to manage yourself.

Until next time… x



Written by Jessica Worth, Nutritionist, Sydney, Northern Beaches, Mona Vale

Jess works with clients face-to-face on Sydney’s northern beaches and consults online all around the world. If you’d like to get to the bottom of your IBS symptoms, get in touch with Jess.

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