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by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
Irritable bowel syndrome is sometimes used as a blanket diagnosis for many digestive ailments. On this page, you’ll learn a little bit more about the real causes of IBS including more about your second brain. Once you know what’s been causing your unusual gastrointestinal symptoms, you’re one step closer to finding permanent relief!
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome, often shortened to IBS, is not a disease in and of itself but rather a symptom of something going wrong with the digestive and neurological systems. It is a malfunction of how the digestive system works and often presents with chronic abdominal pain, frequent bowel movements, constipation, and colon spasms. To be diagnosed with IBS, a person must have intestinal pain or discomfort at least 3 times per month for 3 months with no other diagnosable disease present.
There are four main types of diagnosable irritable bowel syndrome:
In irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, hard, lumpy stools are present at least 25% of the time.
In irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea, loose, watery stools are present at least 25% of the time.
A diagnosis of IBS with mixed symptoms means both diarrhea and constipation are experienced at least 25% of the time. There may be a week where you have frequent bowel movements that are practically uncontrollable and another week where you are so constipated; you can’t have a bowel movement at all!
With mixed IBS, symptoms are varied and can change from day to day. One day you’re running to the bathroom with loose stools, the next you feel bloated and constipated.
The Second Brain and the Hidden Cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Since irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by a sudden change in bowel habits, conventional doctors often don’t know what to make of it. The most common feature in IBS is stress. Most people with irritable bowel syndrome have no idea that there is a second brain in their gut. Dr. Michael Gershon first coined the term “second brain” when he came out with his book of the same name in 1996. It was realized that the vast majority of people who suffer from depression, anxiety, ulcers, and Parkinson’s disease show measurable alterations in their digestive tract.
If you’ve ever felt “butterflies in your stomach”, that nauseous feeling before a test or a “gut feeling” about a person or situation, you’ve felt your second brain at work. The second brain is a nearly self-contained network of neural circuitry, neurotransmitters, and proteins of its very own. It has also been strongly suggested there is a link between gut brain damage and developmental disorders such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and other sensory processing disorders.
It is believed that people who have experienced physical or sexual trauma in childhood are much more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome because of permanent neurological rewiring in the second brain.
Other Diseases Associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Other ailments have been mistakenly diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, leading to frustration for the doctor and ineffective treatment for the patient. In order to effectively treat IBS or any other gastrointestinal malfunction, it’s important to rule out underlying disease and food allergies.
Let’s look at the most common GI ailments commonly misdiagnosed as IBS:
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the inability of the digestive system to process the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. This protein is called gluten. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include chronic abdominal pain, bloating, gurgling intestines, flatulence, muscle aches, brain fog, and chronic sinusitis. Gluten intolerance leads to chronic inflammation of the intestines. The only effective treatment for this disease is a lifelong gluten free diet.
Lactose intolerance is another common food intolerance that can cause or worsen the symptoms of IBS. In a person with lactose intolerance, the digestive system is unable to breakdown the sugar (lactose) found in dairy products. This can lead to nausea, vomiting, chronic diarrhea, and flatulence, especially after eating or drinking anything containing lactose.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the small intestine. Long-term inflammation of the intestines can cause chronic diarrhea and a narrowing of the intestinal passage, which can lead to indigestion and malabsorption of nutrients. Smokers are often more likely to develop this disease than non-smokers and it is usually caused by the immune system attacking the intestinal lining. It has also been associated with undiagnosed gluten intolerance.
Undiagnosed thyroid disease can also lead to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Frequent bowel movements, chronic diarrhea, irritability, sweating, anxiety, weight loss, dizziness, and hair loss are just some of the symptoms associated with an overactive thyroid.
Increased intestinal permeability can lead to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. In a person with leaky gut syndrome, the lining of the intestines is more porous than it should be, which can cause undigested food particles and toxins to enter the bloodstream. This can lead to multiple food allergies, skin disorders, fatigue, chronic stomach upset, and unexplained neurological symptoms.
Lack of sufficient digestive enzymes can lead to poor digestion. Chronic flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea are all symptoms of poor digestion. Oftentimes, leaky gut syndrome and poor diet can slow down the natural digestive process.
Oftentimes, intestinal parasite infection gets overlooked. Chronic gurgling intestines, rectal itching, multiple food allergies, irritability, insomnia, chronic diarrhea, bloated belly, constipation, hair loss, and skin rashes are only some of the symptoms associated with intestinal parasite infection.
Candida is a naturally occurring yeast found in the sexual organs and intestines. However, excessive use of NSAID pain relievers, antibiotics, and alcohol can lead to an overgrowth of this yeast. Symptoms of chronic candida infection include bloating, abdominal distension, abdominal cramping, frequent bowel movements, memory loss, irritability, skin disorders, frequent bacterial infections, asthmatic symptoms, multiple food allergies, and multiple chemical sensitivities.
Finding out What’s Bothering Your Bowels
In order to effectively treat irritable bowel syndrome or any other digestive disorder, it’s important to get to the root cause of your symptoms.
For my patients with unexplained digestive problems, I recommend three important tests:
Natural Treatments for IBS
Once you figure out the cause of your digestive troubles, you can improve your digestion through natural means. For my patients, I recommend a combination of dietary changes, stress management, and nutritional supplements.
When living with any type of chronic digestive disorder, you must clean up your diet. This means getting rid of the junk foods that contain nothing but empty calories, food dyes, and preservatives. Your digestive system will thrive on a diet rich in whole-food nutrition such as organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, dairy, and healthy fat.
For slow or difficult digestion associated with IBS, I recommend a high-fiber diet and healing foods such as soups and stews flavored with anti-inflammatory spices such as cayenne pepper, turmeric, and garlic. I also suggest a diet rich in oily fish such as wild-caught salmon to nourish the body and cut down on inflammation. Paired with brown rice and steamed organic vegetables, you have a healing meal that nourishes your body while soothing your ravaged gut.
For IBS sufferers, stress management is crucial. This can mean anything from taking up a hobby to getting regular exercise or taking a yoga or meditation class. Massage therapy can be very beneficial for those suffering from chronic gastrointestinal disorders as it encourages healthy circulation, decreases inflammation, and promotes healthy digestion.
For patients with difficult digestion, it is important to add the right dietary supplements to make up for the nutrients lost to malabsorption. Even if you’re already taking a multivitamin, you might want to consider stopping. This is because most store-bought vitamins are synthetic and filled with dangerous chemicals that will only make your digestive and immune system health worse.
For my patients, I recommend the following whole-food supplements:
Our formula is superior because it is professional-grade and made to in America to the strictest standards. Foundation Vitamins and Minerals contain no artificial dyes or preservatives.
Foundation’s healing nutrients include:
Diamond Nutritional’s Ultra Probiotic Formula
Not only is your gut your second brain but seventy percent of your immune system is located there as well. I always recommend a good quality probiotic supplement for patients dealing with IBS and other digestive disorders. A positive balance of healthy gut bacteria helps improve your digestion, fights infection, and improves the elimination process.
For my patients, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Ultra Probiotic Formula. Unlike other probiotics, which only contain 1 or 2 active cultures in a low-dose capsule, each packet of Ultra Probiotic Formula contains 225 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) complete with six unique probiotic strains to populate your gut fast to boost your immune system and relieve gastrointestinal discomfort.
These strains include lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium lactis, lactobacillus salivarius, lactobacillus casei, and bifidobacterium bifidum.
Diamond Nutritional’s Bowel Support Formula
For my patients with frequent bowel movements or constipation, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Bowel Support Formula. It contains a proprietary blend of herbs and supplements designed to improve your regularity without causing dependency.
These ingredients include:
Diamond Nutritional’s Digestive Enzyme Formula
People with IBS often have difficulty with digestion. This is why for my patients with irritable bowel syndrome, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Digestive Enzyme Formula. Though there are plenty of digestive enzymes on the market, they often contain only one enzyme. Our formula goes many steps further with a proprietary blend of ingredients designed to not only provide acid balance but support your pancreas and stabilize your blood sugar as well.
These ingredients include:
Diamond Nutritionals’ Stomach Support Formula
For chronic stomach distress, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Stomach Support Formula. It contains zinc carnosine that supports the digestive tract and speeds healing. It also contains mastic gum extract to protect the stomach lining and bismuth to inhibit H. Pylori growth. The berberine sulfate hydrate contained in this formula also has strong antibacterial properties that inhibit bacterial overgrowth.
A diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t mean you have to live with chronic intestinal discomfort for the rest of your life. Treating any digestive health problem effectively means figuring out what’s causing it and treating it with a healing diet, stress management, and the right whole-food supplements. No matter how long you’ve been living with chronic stomach discomfort, a pain-free life can still be yours!
Dr. Maxwell has successfully treated many patients with IBS. His goal is to find and treat the root cause(s) of your symptoms. Please feel free to call us at 513-741-4404 to schedule a consultation. We will be glad to assist you and answer any questions you may have.