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Are you tired of battling recurring digestive issues that impact your daily life? You're not alone! 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gut disorder affecting millions worldwide!

In this blog post, we'll delve into the facts about IBS, exploring its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and management strategies.

So, grab yourself a cup of tea, relax, and let's explore all things IBS together.

So, what actually is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder primarily affecting the large intestine or colon.

It is characterised by a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

You might be wondering, what causes IBS? 

While the exact cause of IBS remains unclear, research suggests that abnormalities in gut-brain communication, an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, and altered intestinal function may contribute to its development [1].

However, more research is needed to uncover the exact causes of IBS.

Read more about causes of IBS here.

How is IBS diagnosed?

Accurate diagnosis of IBS involves a thorough evaluation by your healthcare professional. 

When you visit your healthcare professional, they'll dig into your medical history, give you a physical check-up, and maybe even run some tests to rule out any other nasties. They use a tool called the Rome IV criteria to figure out if your symptoms match the IBS profile [2].

Maintaining a symptom journal can also be helpful before seeing your Doctor or Dietitian, as it allows you to track patterns and provide valuable information about your food and bowel habits to help create a plan for you and your symptoms [3].

Unmasking Your Triggers 

Let’s talk triggers!

Often IBS symptoms stem from the digestion of foods that are high in fermentable carbohydrates, called FODMAPs.

While triggers of IBS can vary among individuals, certain lifestyle and dietary factors have commonly been associated with worsening symptoms!

Some basic lifestyle habits that may make your IBS worse:

Identifying personal food triggers is crucial for effectively managing your symptoms! This can be done with the help of a specialist Dietitian. 

Managing Your IBS Like A Boss

Now, let's talk about taking control of your IBS like a total boss. Although there's no magic cure for IBS, various strategies can help manage and alleviate symptoms, and improve your overall quality of life. 

Lifestyle modifications can play such a huge role in symptom control. I’m talking about stress management techniques such as:

These can all have a positive impact on IBS symptoms [4]. 

Eating a balanced diet is also an important contributor to symptom relief.

Some individuals find relief by adopting a low FODMAP diet, which involves reducing specific carbohydrates that can trigger symptoms [5], however, this should only be done under the guidance of a specialist Dietitian

To fine-tune your strategy, team up with a healthcare professional and registered dietitian who can help you customise your dietary changes to your unique needs.

Medications like antispasmodics or laxatives may be prescribed to target specific symptoms also, but again, it's crucial to work closely with your healthcare team and specialist Dietitian to determine the most suitable approach for your unique needs [6].

Staying Positive On Your IBS Journey

We know that dealing with a chronic condition like IBS can feel like a real challenge. But please remember, you're never alone in this journey! 

Reach out to your squad — family, friends, and even online communities where you can connect with fellow warriors who truly get what you're going through.

Sharing experiences, tips, and coping strategies can be a game-changer in managing the ups and downs of living with IBS. 

So, put on that smile, stay proactive, and make self-care your superpower on this IBS journey and don’t forget to reach out to your healthcare team and Dietitian to support you along the way!

Check out our library of resources created by our specialist Dietitian to help you on your journey to IBS freedom.

More Information

References

  1. Chey, W. D., Kurlander, J., & Eswaran, S. (2015). Irritable bowel syndrome: a clinical review. JAMA, 313(9), 949-958.
  2. Lacy, B. E., Mearin, F., Chang, L., Chey, W. D., Lembo, A. J., Simren, M., & Spiller, R. (2016). Bowel disorders. Gastroenterology, 150(6), 1393-1407.
  3. Palsson, O. S., Whitehead, W. E., van Tilburg, M. A., Chang, L., Chey, W., Crowell, M. D., ... & Lembo, A. (2016). Development and validation of the Rome IV diagnostic questionnaire for adults. Gastroenterology, 150(6), 1481-1491.
  4. Ford, A. C., Quigley, E. M., Lacy, B. E., Lembo, A. J., Saito, Y. A., Schiller, L. R., ... & Moayyedi, P. (2014). Efficacy of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 109(10), 1547-1561.
  5. Staudacher, H. M., Whelan, K., & Irving, P. M. (2014). Lactose intolerance and the low-FODMAP diet. The Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 29(3), 165-168.
  6. Chey, W. D., & Kurlander, J. (2015). Efficacy of the low FODMAP diet for treating irritable bowel syndrome: the evidence to date. Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology, 8, 253-261.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. 

It is a chronic condition that can cause significant discomfort and inconvenience to those who suffer from it. 

One of the most challenging aspects of IBS is the unpredictable nature of flare-ups. 

However, understanding the triggers of IBS flare-ups and implementing prevention strategies can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Triggers of IBS Flare-ups

The causes of IBS are not well understood, but there are several factors that can trigger flare-ups. 

These triggers can vary from person to person, so it's essential to identify your personal triggers to manage your symptoms effectively.

Diet

Food plays a significant role in IBS flare-ups. 

Certain foods can trigger symptoms, while others can help prevent them. 

Fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods are common triggers for many people with IBS. 

Certain foods high in FODMAPs, or combinations of different high FODMAP foods can also be the cause of your ongoing flare ups. It is important to work with a specialist dietitian to identify your specific FODMAP triggers so you can prevent future flare ups.

Get help from a specialist dietitian here.

Large Meal Sizes

Eating large meals or consuming food quickly can put a strain on the digestive system and disrupt its normal digestive function, leading to IBS symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, discomfort, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. 

Eating smaller, more frequent meals, chewing food thoroughly, and avoiding trigger foods can help reduce the risk of IBS symptoms flaring up.

Find your correct portion sizes and your trigger foods with the help of a specialist dietitian here.

Stress

Stress is a common trigger for IBS symptoms. 

When a person experiences stress, it can cause the body to release certain hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can affect the digestive system. These hormones can increase the sensitivity of the nerves in the digestive system, causing pain and discomfort.

Stress can also cause changes in gut motility, or the movement of food and waste through the digestive system. In some people, stress can cause the digestive system to speed up, leading to diarrhea. In others, it can slow down, causing constipation.

Stress can also affect the gut microbiome, which is the community of bacteria that live in the digestive system. Stress can alter the balance of bacteria in the gut, leading to inflammation and other changes that can trigger IBS symptoms.

Hormonal Changes

Women with IBS may experience flare-ups during their menstrual cycle due to hormonal changes.

Hormonal changes can impact IBS because hormones can affect the functioning of the digestive system. 

For example, the hormone progesterone can cause the muscles in the digestive system to relax, which can lead to constipation. This is why women may experience IBS symptoms leading up to their menstrual cycle bleed, pregnancy, or menopause. 

Medications

Certain medications can irritate the digestive tract and cause IBS symptoms. Examples include antibiotics, antidepressants, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Some medications may also contain small amounts of FODMAPs which may also flare symptoms. Check whether your medications may be causing your symptoms by asking a specialist dietitian here.

Infections

Infections can cause temporary IBS symptoms, or in some cases, these symptoms may persist even after the infection has cleared up.

Infections can cause an IBS flare-up by disrupting the normal functioning of the digestive system, causing inflammation, and altering the balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome. Managing infections promptly and effectively, and following up with a Dietitian soon after can help reduce the risk of developing long-term IBS symptoms.

A Dietitian Is Essential For IBS Management

We emphasise the importance of identifying personal triggers to manage symptoms effectively, because if you know what is causing your IBS, you have the power to prevent occurrence of your symptoms.

Through The IBS Program, we help clients step through the management and identify where the triggers are coming from, so we can reduce the control your IBS has over you and repair your gut for long term better health.

Prevention strategies such as working with a specialist dietitian to identify FODMAP triggers, eating smaller, more frequent meals, and reducing stress levels are recommended to improve the quality of life for people with IBS.

Promptly managing infections and following up with a dietitian after medication use is also recommended to reduce the risk of long-term IBS symptoms.

Need more help? Download the Low FODMAP Meal Plan

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects approximately 11% of the global population.

It is characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel habits, which can significantly impact a person's quality of life.

Despite being a common condition, the exact cause of IBS is not fully understood. However, researchers have made significant strides in recent years in identifying the potential causes of IBS.

In this post, we will explore the 7 causes of IBS, based on the latest research.

1. Gut Microbiota Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the gut bacteria, or microbiota.

The first cause of IBS is said to be the disrupted balance of the gut microbiota which is a collection of microorganisms that reside in the human gut. Dysbiosis, or alterations in the gut microbiota, may play a role in the development of IBS.

Studies have shown that patients with IBS have a less diverse gut microbiota compared to healthy individuals.

Additionally, changes in the abundance of specific bacteria, such as increased levels of Methanobrevibacter smithii and decreased levels of Bifidobacterium, have been observed in patients with IBS (1).

2. Intestinal Inflammation

Intestinal inflammation has been identified as the second potential cause of IBS.

Studies have shown that patients with IBS have increased levels of inflammatory markers in their blood and stool samples (2).

Additionally, some patients with IBS have been found to have increased intestinal permeability, which may allow harmful substances to enter the bloodstream and trigger an immune response (2).

3. Food Intolerances

The third cause of IBS is prolonged food intolerances. Food intolerances are a common trigger for IBS symptoms.

Certain foods, such as those high in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs), can cause digestive discomfort in some individuals.

A low FODMAP diet has been shown to improve symptoms in patients with IBS (3).

4. Infection and Parasites

In some cases, IBS can be triggered by an infection or parasite in the gut. This is known as post-infectious IBS (PI-IBS). This is the fourth cause of IBS.

Studies have shown that individuals who develop PI-IBS after an infection may have changes in the gut microbiota, increased intestinal permeability, and immune activation (4).

5. Psychological Triggers

Psychological triggers, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, have been identified as potential causes of IBS.

The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication system between the central nervous system and the gut. It plays a crucial role in the regulation of gastrointestinal function, including motility, secretion, and immune response (5).

Psychological stress can disrupt the gut-brain axis and lead to the development of IBS symptoms.

Studies have shown that patients with IBS have higher levels of psychological distress compared to healthy individuals (5).

Chronic stress and anxiety can increase intestinal permeability, activate the immune system, and alter the gut microbiota, all of which may contribute to the development of IBS symptoms.

Additionally, depression has been found to be a risk factor for the development of IBS (5).

6. Prolonged Use of Antibiotics

Prolonged use of antibiotics has been associated with the development of IBS.

Antibiotics can alter the gut microbiota, leading to dysbiosis and potentially causing IBS symptoms.

A study found that individuals who had received more then three courses of antibiotics had a significantly increased risk of developing IBS compared to those who had received fewer courses (6).

7. Genetics

Genetics may also play a role in the development of IBS.

Studies have shown that there may be a genetic predisposition to IBS, with certain genetic variants being associated with an increased risk of developing the condition (7).

However, more research is needed to fully understand the genetic factors underlying IBS.

Conclusion

While the exact cause of IBS is not fully understood, researchers have made significant strides in identifying the 7 potential causes of IBS, a common gastrointestinal disorder.

Dysbiosis, intestinal inflammation, food intolerances, infection and parasites, psychological triggers, prolonged use of antibiotics, and genetics have all been identified as potential causes of IBS.

Further research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms behind these potential causes and to develop more effective treatments for this condition.

References

What to do if you have IBS?

Download a FREE low FODMAP meal plan and get started with your symptom relief today.

By Lisa Kunstler: Nutritionist at FodShop, Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor

The festive season is a busy time of year with added stresses for those of us with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other dietary conditions. To make sure this season is fun and tummy safe for you and the family, FodShop have collated some tips to enjoy Christmas low FODMAP!

low FODMAP christmas

Preparing for Christmas

A great idea for low FODMAP Christmas preparations is to bring your own low FODMAP dishes. With Christmas being a busy time of year, our family and friends love the help catering!

You could create a tummy friendly, low FODMAP salad, frittata, or charcuterie board that everyone can enjoy.

Plain, lean meats, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, gluten free crackers, and hard cheeses are some great low FODMAP options.

For some great low FODMAP Christmas food products, like puddings, custard, and gravy, check out the FodShop website HERE.

Low FODMAP diets are often void of fibre, an important component of nutrition found in vegetables, fruits, and wholegrains, that can aid in the prevention of constipation and diarrhoea and decrease abdominal pain. (1)

Approaching Christmas, it is important to keep up your fibre intake and set yourself up for success.

If you’re struggling to consume the recommended 25-30g of fibre per day, try a fibre supplement, like SunFibre or Regular Girl, that may help improve IBS symptoms. 

The Morning of Christmas Celebrations

It’s important to start the day right and stay hydrated to prepare your gut for the day.

Manage any concerns or stress you have over the day by meditating, lightly exercising, or chatting to a friend. (2) All of these are great ways to heal the connection between gut and brain and improve IBS symptoms. 

Up until the big event, try to avoid FODMAP stacking.

This involves minimising the number of high FODMAP meals consumed during the day to avoid any possible flare ups at Christmas dinner. For more information on FODMAP stacking, check out the recent webinar recording by FodShop and the Diet vs Disease team.

During Christmas Celebrations

Communication is key on the day to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Try to eat low FODMAP and don’t be afraid to ask for dishes’ ingredients.

Make sure to also limit alcohol and caffeine intake, as both can exacerbate IBS symptoms by irritating the gut. A great alternative is an herbal tea!

If all else fails, there are a variety of enzymatic supplements available at FodShop to get you through the festive season.

Supplements we recommend to IBS patients are Intoleran and FODZYME. Both break down complex FODMAPs, like fructans and lactose, into simple sugars that are easily digestible, making Christmas dinners stress free! 

Finally (and most importantly) enjoy and have a Merry low FODMAP Christmas!

About the Author

Lisa Kunstler

Expert Contributor

Email: nutritioninanutshell101@gmail.com

Qualifications: Bachelor of Nutrition Science, Certificate IV in Personal Training, Certificate III in Group Fitness

About: Lisa Kunstler graduated as a Nutritionist from Deakin University in 2022 and has her Certificate III and IV in group fitness and personal training. She has worked at FodShop, a company selling low FODMAP food products for people with irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions, for almost a year. Lisa worked as a student during her degree at the Olive Wellness Institute, where her role involved educating health care professionals on the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil and olive products.

Research/Areas of Interest: Nutrition, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fitness, Low FODMAP Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, and the health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

For more low FODMAP Recipes check out our Recipe Ebooks! Or download our FREE 4-Day Low FODMAP Meal Plan by entering your email below.

Coffee often causes our gut to do funny things, so a common question I often get asked is coffee bad for my gut?

When we drink coffee, it starts the contraction and movement of the muscles in our gut called peristalsis.

Coffee also causes enzymes and mucous to release and line the bowel (intestine) walls as “lubrication” which supports the passage of the stool through the bowel (intestines).⁠ ⁠ 

A “coffee poop” is actually a real phenomenon.⁠ 

This is not a bad thing by any means, but for those with a sensitive gut it can often cause symptoms and irritate the gastrointestinal tract which can lead to pains and loose bowels, particularly in those with irritable bowel syndrome.

Read the positives and negatives of coffee on Instagram.

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A post shared by Dietitian IBS & FODMAP Specialist (@theibsprogram)

If you are finding coffee causes really loose bowels in the morning, I would suggest reducing your consumption to just 1-2 cups per day. If you have prolonged loose bowels every day, this could lead to nutritional deficiencies long term.⁠ ⁠

Overall, there are many benefits of coffee, as long as we are sticking to only 2-3 cups per day or less if you have a sensitive gut or suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.

For more information, follow us on Instagram.

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A post shared by Dietitian IBS & FODMAP Specialist (@theibsprogram)

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