IBS is BS. It’s just a label not an answer

functional wellness Apr 04, 2024

It’s IBS awareness month and I’m committed to sharing more about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in my next few emails.

But it won’t be the same information you will find elsewhere.

In my opinion, the term IBS is simply BS.

It’s a label (not an answer) given to patients who struggle with a variety of chronic digestive issues like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, nausea and low appetite.

When a healthcare provider is unable to pinpoint a disease from lab work or basic procedures, the label IBS is often given to a patient as the CAUSE of their discomfort.

However, simply labeling something doesn’t give us an answer as to WHY it’s happening.

And worse yet, it doesn’t offer us a specific, actionable solution to addressing the cause and resolving our symptoms.

When I was struggling with ongoing heartburn, extreme bloating, nausea, constipation, and lack of appetite my primary care handed me a one sheet handout on IBS.

The handout told me that IBS is when the intestines squeeze too hard or not hard enough and cause food to move too fast or too slow through the digestive tract.

That was it.  My "answer" to all my problems.

But what I wondered was WHY would it do this?  

And if it's not normal, how do I correct it?

The handout also said that if my symptoms followed a pattern over time it could make it clear to my doctor that IBS is the “cause”.

But… IBS isn’t a cause, it’s a label for my symptoms.

To me, this was BS.  Simply an “I don’t know what’s wrong with you” answer.

The handout told me that my symptoms might get worse with stress, travel, attending social events, or changes in my daily routine.

So should I not travel or have a social life?

And stress and life changes happen all the time so should I just expect to live with this?

My solution according to the handout was to include more fiber (News flash! not great for someone with bacteria overgrowth), drink plenty of water, and avoid foods that make me feels worse (a very challenging task to do if you don’t have a strategy to test which foods they are).

That was it!  No specifics, no guidelines, no plan, no support.

In addition to the handout, my healthcare provider prescribed me an antacid, and suggested I take some over the counter products to reduce my gas and make me go #2.

I’m not someone who likes to take medicine and more importantly still really wanted to know WHY this was happening to me.

I wanted to FIX the PROBLEM, not throw some band-aids on it and carry-on like nothing was wrong.

Remember, symptoms are our body’s way of telling us that something isn’t working right.  That our body needs tending to.

I carried on for a while longer and finally when the pain was impacting the quality of my life and bringing my mood down, I decided to see a GI specialist.

He ordered some standard labs and procedures that I completed including an endoscopy and colonoscopy.

I had hoped that we would find something wrong with me so that we could fix it, and I could get back to living my life without being in constant discomfort and pain.

So here’s what they found…. NOTHING (wump wump wump)

Everything looked completely normal with the exception of a little gastritis (irritation of the stomach lining).

I was told to cut down on coffee and spicy foods.

So I did.

And nothing changed.

At the time I was learning more about holistic health and functional wellness.  I had enrolled in a 6-month course to learn more about how to tackle health issues from a functional, food first approach.

I learned that there are labs out there that will take a picture of your microbiome and help you uncover if you have a pathogen, bacteria or yeast overgrowth, or poor digestive function.  That THESE things could be the CAUSE of my IBS.

After running my own gut health labs (the program trained me how to run, read and address the lab findings), I found that I had not one, but two, pathogens in my gut.

The first, H. Pylori a stomach bacteria, comes in through water and foods we eat and likes to burrow into our stomach lining. It also has the ability to reduce the acidity in our stomach to make it more hospitable for the bacteria to thrive.

It commonly leads to poor digestion of our foods (due to low acidity) leading to undigested food sitting in our stomach too long.  This irritates and damages the gut lining leading to gastritis (Ah ha! My real answer to my heart burn).

It also can lead to bacteria overgrowth (and resulting excessive gas) as our normal, healthy bacteria feed on our undigested foods.

H. Pylori has been linked to stomach cancer and ulcers.

Wouldn’t you want to know if this guy was proliferating in your digestive tract?

Some healthcare providers will test for this but often times the tests performed are not very accurate and produce false negatives (this will need to be a separate conversation and is what I ran into).

The other pathogen I found was Blastocystis spp.

It is a microscopic organism that can inhabit the intestines.  It can cause watery or loose stools, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anal itching, weight loss, constipation, and excess gas.

This was not something my providers had tested me for.

My story has a lot more twists and turns but this is enough to get the point across.

If you are having digestive symptoms like those I’ve mentioned, and maybe have been told you have IBS, it’s time to look further for the true root cause.

When you work with me we’ll go digging for the root cause(s).

We start with a 2 hour investigative intake session where we’ll go through your health history, trace back to the start of your symptoms, and evaluate your current lifestyle and nutrition.

You’ll complete a couple of questionnaires to identify your specific symptoms and past/current exposures to help us pinpoint what your potential root causes could be.

Next you’ll complete a comprehensive GI Map home-based lab test and a food reactions lab test to help us look for pathogens, bacterial or yeast overgrowth, poor digestion, inflammation, leaky gut and food sensitivities.

Finally, you’ll complete a one-week food and digestive reactions journal so we can start to identify your potential triggers.

My process is geared towards finding the root causes of your troubles so that we can address those with foods, therapeutic supplements, and supportive habits and lifestyle practices.

We want to give your body the tools it needs for the best chance at healing and rebalancing.

My goal is to help you resolve your digestive symptoms once and for all so you don’t ever have to think about them again.  You will feel like a new person and can get back to living your best life!  (Like Kyla did - see her story below)

Are you ready to get to the root cause of your IBS and truly nourish your body and thrive? 

Book a free discovery session with me so we can discuss your health concerns, where you want to go and how nutritional therapy, and working with me, can help you resolve your IBS (or other health concerns) and give you your life back.

Let's get started!

Heather Glenn, FNTP, RWP, HHC





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