Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Functional Medicine: If You Have Gut Issues, You Have Bigger Problems.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Functional Medicine: If You Have Gut Issues, You Have Bigger Problems.

IBS

Did you know that Irritable Bowel Syndrome, commonly known as IBS, affects about 15% of the national population? That’s over 50 million people! This number is certainly growing as our lifestyles become more unregulated and stress and poor food choices become the norm for many people. 

MAGIC 8 BALL – Will I get a Chronic Disease SOMEDAY? 
What does your POOP say? 

From your immune system to mental health, digestion to chronic diseases, the health of your gut affects almost every other aspect of your overall well-being. Unsurprisingly, many of the patients we see at Brookview Wellness report issues that are traced back to their gut health. Your gut is a complex ecosystem teeming with trillions of microorganisms that hold the key to optimizing your health. 

We aren’t fortune tellers, but if your GI is giving you problems, that is a big red flag 🚩 for other current and future issues.

What is IBS?

IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine and is characterized by a bunch of uncomfortable symptoms. Although the exact cause of IBS remains unknown, various factors contribute to its development. Stress, diet, gut flora imbalances, and altered gut motility are among the leading causes. 

Experiencing Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be distressing and challenging, and those with IBS often endure recurring episodes of discomfort and disruption in their daily lives. 

Common Symptoms of IBS

The symptoms of IBS can vary significantly from person to person, making diagnosis and management challenging without identifying the root cause. Some common signs and symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal Pain: Frequent and recurring abdominal pain or discomfort, which is often relieved after a bowel movement.
  • Altered Bowel Habits: IBS can present as either diarrhea-predominant, constipation, or a mix of both. 
  • Bloating and Gas: Excessive gas and bloating are common in IBS patients, leading to feelings of discomfort and distention.
  • Mucus in Stool: Some individuals with IBS may notice the presence of mucus in their stools.
  • Fatigue and Disrupted Sleep: Chronic discomfort and altered bowel habits can lead to fatigue and disturbed sleep patterns.

Incomplete Evacuation: The feeling of not being able to completely empty the bowels after a bowel movement is common in IBS.

IBS Symptoms

Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be difficult as symptoms often occur unpredictably. This can disrupt daily activities, work, social engagements, and travel plans. Some individuals may find it difficult to engage in social events or travel far from home due to the fear of experiencing sudden and uncomfortable symptoms.

Moreover, the unpredictable nature of IBS symptoms can lead to emotional distress, anxiety, and reduced quality of life. People with IBS may constantly worry about having access to a bathroom, which can further contribute to stress and anxiety. It’s no way to live, but fortunately, there are answers in Functional Medicine!

Your Interconnected Gut

While IBS is a disruptive condition, the effect an unhealthy gut can have on your overall health is also distressing. When you have gut issues, it is debilitating to many other systems of your body beyond just your gastrointestinal tract. 

Here are some key ways in which gut health is linked to other health factors:

1. Immune System: The gut contains a large portion of your immune cells and acts as a shield, preventing harmful substances from entering your body. A healthy gut supports a hearty immune response, reducing the risk of infections and autoimmune responses.

2. Mental Health: The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication pathway between your gut and brain. Your gut produces important neurotransmitters like serotonin, the “happy hormone.” Disruptions in gut health can lead to imbalances in these neurotransmitters, potentially contributing to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

3. Inflammation: A healthy gut helps reduce systemic inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation is associated with various chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

4. Nutrient Absorption: The gut is responsible for absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat. Nutrient absorption can be compromised when the gut is not functioning optimally, leading to deficiencies that impact your overall health.

5. Digestive Disorders: In addition to IBS, your gut health is directly connected to digestive other disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). 

6. Skin Health: There is a link between gut health and skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. A balanced gut microbiome helps reduce inflammation and improve skin health.

7. Weight Management: Your gut influences how your body stores fat, regulates appetite, and extracts energy from food. An imbalanced gut flora can contribute to weight gain and difficulties in managing body weight.

8. Allergies and Sensitivities: An unhealthy gut can contribute to the development of allergies and food sensitivities. A balanced gut microbiome supports a well-regulated immune response to allergens making reactions less common and more mild. 

9. Energy Levels and Fatigue: The gut’s ability to absorb nutrients and produce energy can impact your energy levels and combat fatigue.

10. Neurodegenerative Disease – Recent studies have shown a connection between the health of your gut microbiome and the onset of cognitive degeneration and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Functional Medicine Approach to IBS

Functional Medicine, at its foundation, views the body as an interconnected system, with each part influencing the others. Rather than merely treating your bothersome symptoms, Functional Medicine aims to identify and address the root causes of your health issues, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Functional Medicine

Here are some key ways Dr. Brooke helps her patients treat IBS:

Comprehensive Assessment: A thorough and customized approach is implemented to understand your unique health history, lifestyle, diet, stress levels, and gut function. This assessment helps us identify triggers and underlying factors contributing to your IBS.

Personalized Nutrition Plan: Diet plays a big role in managing IBS symptoms. Dr. Brooke can tailor a personalized nutrition plan based on your specific needs. This plan eliminates trigger foods and incorporates gut-healing and anti-inflammatory foods.

Balancing Gut Flora: Your plan may incorporate the use of probiotics, prebiotics, and other gut-healing protocols to restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system.

Stress Management: Stress and anxiety can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Dr. Brooke will recommend a variety of stress-reduction techniques like meditation, bilateral music, and self-care to improve gut health and overall well-being.

Identifying Food Sensitivities: Food sensitivities can trigger IBS symptoms in some individuals. Brookview Wellness offers testing to identify specific food triggers and create a customized elimination diet plan.

Supplementation: Targeted supplements may be suggested to address nutrient deficiencies and support gut healing.

Lifestyle Modifications: Making lifestyle changes, such as prioritizing sleep and regular exercise, or reducing exposure to environmental toxins, can significantly impact IBS management.

CHECK YOUR POOP DAILY. IF YOU NOTICE CHANGES, IT’S TIME TO CALL!

Taking a proactive approach to your gut health and working with a qualified practitioner can lead to positive and lasting changes that make a dramatic difference in your quality of life. If you are struggling with IBS or similar gastrointestinal issues, consider scheduling a Discovery Call with Dr. Brooke to start your journey toward improved gut health.