26th September 2021 • Written by Dr Sam White

IBS and Digestive Health

Irritable bowel syndrome is common, and yet in itself is not a true diagnosis. It is a cluster of symptoms that may have a number of causes and requires further investigation. It is important to exclude diagnoses such as gallbladder disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, and ulcers and so on.

People with IBS often struggle for many years with recurrent abdominal pain, alternating bowel habit, and bloating. Too often IBS is put down to anxiety or depression without considering the role of food and diet or even the digestive function of the bowel, let alone how this can be successfully treated.

How is an integrated or functional medicine assessment different?

Again we need to look at the root causes which must consider the many functions of the bowel and how this can go wrong:

Diet (allergy and reactive hypoglycaemia)- The GI tract has evolved over thousands of years. Our ancestral diet is much more akin to a ketogenic diet. If you have not yet downloaded my guide to the paleo- ketogenic diet please visit the homepage. A typical western diet which is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates lends itself to fermentation of bacteria in the upper GI tract (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) which causes many bowel related symptoms and even contributes to other conditions like chronic fatigue and brain fog. We can arrange a simple test for this which you can do at home, using a breath analysis for the by-products of bacterial fermentation (hydrogen and methane). This can then be treated with natural anti-microbials like oregano oil or berberine.

Gut dysbiosis (the wrong bacteria in the wrong place)- This can be tested by doing a comprehensive stool analysis. Whilst may not sound too glamorous(!) it does give us an incredibly detailed report about your bowel function and thus by default your general health (around 70% of your immune system function is compromised from the GI tract). The test also considers many other things such as digestive enzyme efficiency and markers for inflammation.

Low stomach acid- otherwise known as hypochloridria. We often think of stomach acid as being a bad thing. And yet sufficient acid in the stomach is essential for a number of reasons. It is required for the stomach to empty properly (preventing reflux), and to sterilise the upper digestive tract- killing off bacteria and yeast. We also need an acidic environment for the breakdown and absorption of both proteins and key micronutrients such as magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc, boron, and selenium and so on. Hypochloridia can thus lead to many preventable deficiencies. Again, we can test for it, and treat accordingly.

Leaky gut syndrome- substances which should be held in the gut can leak out through defects in the bowel wall. The ordinarily tight gut wall junctions are held together by a protein called Zonulin. Antibodies to Zonulin can cause a leaky gut and by default the malabsorption of minerals and even vitamin B12. Leaky gut can also manifest with chronic allergy or food intolerance since food particles are absorbed before being properly digested. This means that large food particles get into the blood stream where they can then attract the ‘unwanted’ attention of the immune system which mistakes them for viruses or bacteria. With time this causes inflammation creating allergy, auto-immunity, and a range of symptoms such as bloating, fatigue and pain.

Constipation- a regular bowel habit is abolsutely essential for the body to detoxify. Medications such as opiates can cause slow transit times and hence the build-up of waste. This is not healthy long term and requires effective treatment of the cause.

If you are struggling with IBS and digestive issues and would like some help to find out the underlying cause please arrange a consultation by simply clicking on the button on the homepage. Alternatively, please email any queries to E: admin@drsamwhite.com.