IBS. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As if our intestines are like a grumbly irritable teenager.
If ever there was a name slapped on a set of symptoms that the medical world doesn’t really know what to do with, this would be it!
Some personal background with this, without getting TMI – I’ve had ultrasounds, a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, and a basic Celiac screen and was told nothing was wrong, I must just have IBS.
What? If nothing was wrong, then why would I go through a couple weeks at a time of intense cramping no matter what I ate?
Why does my belly have the ability to go from flat to looking like I’m 6 months pregnant in the course of one day? And not just looking that way, but feeling like there’s a balloon blown up in there.
Why would my energy and mood be so blah all the time despite eating a mostly healthy diet and exercising?
I’ll tell you.
Because there was/is something wrong. But it’s the kind of “wrong” that modern medicine (as amazing as it is for many many things!) doesn’t have a simple answer for with medication or treatment, so therefore doesn’t really understand.
So, the patient gets slapped with the all-encompassing label of IBS and is given something to help the symptom of diarrhea or constipation.
Meanwhile, the person never actually feels better. I’ve yet to meet anyone with an IBS diagnosis who’s felt really pleased with the recommended treatment.
If you have diagnosed IBS or you just have digestive struggles and haven’t received a specific diagnosis, I’ll tell you what’s likely going on here:
It’s a big ol’ cycle involving gut bacteria, stress, poor nutrition, inflammation, other unhelpful lifestyle factors, and a body that has just been responding as best it can with the cards it’s been dealt.
It’s not simple, so it’s hard to pinpoint. BUT!
But but but –
there actually IS a ton that can be gleaned about your digestive situation through understanding your symptoms, current and past dietary and lifestyle habits, and your routine Complete Blood Count (WITH differential) and Complete Metabolic Panel. And an iron panel can be a big help here as well.
These are tests I’ve had done plenty of times. And now that I understand what I’m looking at with these labs, I see all kinds of things that were claimed to be “normal”, specifically in regards to my immune/gut health that I NOW see were not normal and could go a long way in explaining my digestive symptoms.
Specifically, when looking at the CBC with differential (that means including the breakdown of the different types of white blood cells), we can see indications of whether the immune system is struggling to fight off some bad guys. And, depending on the breakdown of amounts of those white blood cells, we can see patterns that show if those bad guys might be more bacterial, viral, parasitic, or allergies.
Combine that with other markers on the tests and we can see if your body might have been fighting for a long time, or if it’s more recent.
We can see if you’re trending toward potential nutritional deficiencies that can exacerbate the issue.
We can see if you may be lacking the ability to produce appropriate gastric and digestive juices and bile.
Adding in your actual physical symptoms and looking at your body as a whole, we can get a good picture of what sort of fire might be going on in your gut.
AND THEN WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
We can. We can put the fire out – and if you’re getting bloated a lot, constipated or experiencing diarrhea (or alternating), having frequent heartburn and reflux – then there IS some sort of fire in the gut. Some kind of imbalance.
It’s not that your gut is just irritable, it is simply doing the only thing it can based on the situation it is in. So if you’re getting bloated a lot, especially at night, even when you eat healthy foods – it’s not because your intestines are just irritable. It’s because there is probably an imbalance of friendly and unfriendly bacteria, yeast, and fungi, and the bad guys have taken over. They set up shop and cause lots of downstream negative effects.
So, what’s the take home here?
If you have IBS or IBS type symptoms but don’t know why or what to do about it, I can help. I can help you assess your situation based on your symptoms and your objective blood work data and lead you on a path to feeling much better. We’ll address your symptoms from a foundational standpoint and you’ll receive a made-for-you protocol and step by step plan to feel much, much better.
It’s pretty amazing what we can do when we better understand WHY the body is struggling in some way. Once we have an idea why, we can work from the ground up to address the reasons that things get out of whack in the first place. This is how we make lasting change.