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IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)

What You Need To Know
WHAT IS IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disease of the digestive system. It is characterised by a group of symptoms that can vary in severity and duration, but typically include abdominal pain, bloating, changes in bowel habits (such as diarrhoea, constipation, or both), and an overall sense of discomfort or distress in the abdomen.

IBS tends to involve a combination of factors including abnormal gut motility, heightened sensitivity of the intestines, changes in the gut microbiome, inflammation, and disturbances in the communication between the brain and the gut (known as the gut-brain axis).

IBS is a chronic condition that can significantly impact a person's quality of life, causing physical discomfort and emotional distress. Symptoms can be triggered or worsened by various factors, including certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, and certain medications.​

DIAGNOSING IBS - THE CONVENTIONAL APPROACH

A diagnosis typically involves a thorough evaluation of symptoms, medical history, and physical examination. It is typically diagnosed based on the presence of characteristic symptoms and the exclusion of other underlying conditions through appropriate tests and investigations.

Conventional treatment for IBS focuses on managing and alleviating symptoms, This may involve lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, stress management techniques, medications to target specific symptoms, and other supportive therapies such as probiotics or psychological therapies.

Stomach Ache
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The Benefits of Testing for IBS

Functional medicine testing for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can provide valuable insights into the underlying causes and contributing factors of the condition.

 

These tests help to identify specific imbalances, dysfunctions, and triggers that may be exacerbating IBS symptoms.

While not all tests are necessary for every individual, here are some common functional medicine tests that can be used in the evaluation of IBS:

  • Comprehensive Stool Analysis: This test examines the composition of the gut microbiome, checks for the presence of pathogens such as bacteria, parasites, or fungi, assesses digestive enzyme activity, and evaluates markers of inflammation and intestinal health. It provides valuable information about the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria, which can guide personalised treatment approaches.

  • Food Sensitivity Testing: This type of test helps identify specific food sensitivities or intolerances that may be triggering IBS symptoms. It measures immune reactions to a wide range of common foods and can guide the development of an elimination diet or personalised dietary recommendations.

  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) Testing: SIBO is a condition characterised by an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. It can contribute to IBS symptoms. Breath testing is commonly used to detect the presence of excessive bacteria in the small intestine by measuring levels of hydrogen and methane gases produced by the bacteria.

  • Nutritional TestingComprehensive nutritional testing can assess nutrient deficiencies, imbalances, and functional status. Deficiencies in certain nutrients, such as vitamin D, magnesium, or zinc, can impact digestive health and contribute to IBS symptoms.

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IBS, SIBO & AUTOIMMUNITY

Both IBS and SIBO have been associated with immune system dysregulation. Chronic inflammation in the gut, triggered by SIBO or other factors, can disrupt immune function and potentially contribute to the development or exacerbation of autoimmunity. This immune dysregulation may involve the production of autoantibodies and the attack on healthy tissues characteristic of autoimmune diseases.

Additionally, SIBO can lead to increased intestinal permeability, or "leaky gut," allowing bacteria and other substances to enter the bloodstream and trigger the immune system, leading to chronic inflammation and potentially the development of autoimmune disease. 

We also have growing evidence establishing a role of the gut microbiome in both IBS and autoimmune disorders. Changes in the composition of gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis, have been observed in these conditions. Dysbiosis can alter immune function, promote inflammation, and contribute to the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Shared risk factors, such as gastrointestinal motility disorders and anatomical abnormalities, may also contribute to the observed relationships among IBS, SIBO, and autoimmunity.

Understanding the connections among IBS, SIBO, and autoimmunity could have significant implications for diagnosis and treatment. Targeting gut dysbiosis, restoring intestinal barrier function, and modulating immune responses may help manage these conditions and potentially reducing the risk of autoimmune disease development or progression in susceptible individuals. 

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