5 Common Causes of IBS
Updated: Mar 8
If you've been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you may have been suffering with it for years before receiving that diagnosis. While a diagnosis can - at first! - offer comfort in finally having a problem officially recognised, the satisfaction is short-lived. From my own personal experience and from what my clients tell me, often that is where all support ends, and you’re left no further forward in actually fixing the problem.
The term "IBS" is essentially meaningless; it’s a catch-all term used to encompass a huge variety of digestive issues. If you really want to get to the bottom of the problem (no pun intended!), you can discuss your symptoms with me in a free 30 Minute IBS Health Assessment.
In my experience, IBS is likely to be caused by one of these five conditions:
Cause #1: SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
Around 60% of people with IBS will have SIBO. Though you might have heard about good (and bad) bacteria in the gut, really what experts are talking about is the balance of bacteria in the large intestine: the colon. The small intestine shouldn’t have any bacteria, and every day the body should perform a flush to sweep bacteria from the small intestine into the large intestine. This flush is called the ‘migrating motor complex’. For a huge variety of reasons (historic food poisoning being the most common, but also low levels of stomach acid or adhesions play a role, among others) the bacteria are not swept away. The trouble is that these bacteria can ferment the food in your small intestine, causing gas, belching, bloating, pain and a variety of other symptoms, including constipation and/or loose stools, and even anxiety. A breath test can establish which gases are present, and we can devise an action plan based on your results.
Cause #2: Lactose Intolerance
This is when your body is not able to tolerate lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products. Essentially, bacteria in your intestine feed on these milk sugars, leading to a host of IBS symptoms, like bloating and gas, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea. It can go hand in hand with other digestive complaints, such as coeliac disease or increased intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’). Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed via a simple at-home breath test.
Cause #3: Fructose Malabsorption
The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance. Fructose (which is found in fruit, honey and many processed foods) is a sugar, which, like lactose, is digested in the small intestine. Some people cannot absorb fructose, and what is not absorbed is fermented by intestinal bacteria, causing bloating, cramping, gas and distension of the stomach. You might also experience brain fog and headaches. A breath test will diagnose the condition.
Cause #4: Dysbiosis
This is an imbalance in the levels of beneficial (good) and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the large intestine or colon, which can make way to housing parasites or an overgrowth of yeasts (see below). This is now common due to overuse of antibiotics and alcohol, an increase in high sugar diets, and stress. Symptoms can vary from a sluggish bowel or diarrhoea, pain, bloating and flatulence, to chronic bad breath, joint pain, fatigue and food sensitivities. Dysbiosis is also implicated in a variety of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A stool test can help establish whether your gut bacteria are out of balance, along with a host of other markers that might be useful in getting to the root of your digestive problems.
Cause #5: Yeast Overgrowth
Where the gut environment becomes out of balance (due to dysbiosis), yeast can thrive. Diets high in sugar feed the yeast – although if you think you might have a yeast overgrowth, it’s worth noting that long-term yeast problems can mean that the yeast cells are pathogenic or disease causing, and that the yeast has switched its metabolism to also be able to digest protein and fat. Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include recurring thrush, gas or bloating, fatigue, bad breath, cravings for sweet foods, joint pain and brain fog. A stool test can establish the presence of candida or other yeast overgrowth.
Some people struggle with digestive problems for years. If you are ready to make fixing your gut health a priority, I would love to work with you. I can help you understand what might be going on in your gut and take greater steps towards a resolution. You can book a free 30-minute Health Assessment with me directly HERE.
I also have some great additional tips in my free eBook: Fix Your Digestion Naturally where I talk about the benefits of a happy, healthy tummy; 5 secrets of good digestion; happy tummy foods; which foods to avoid and some gut friendly recipes. Click HERE for your free download.