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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.

While IBS is a chronic condition and may never truly resolve, there are several prevention strategies that individuals can implement to manage their symptoms effectively and live with IBS relatively freely. 

Here are some strategies that may help prevent IBS flare-ups.

1. Identify Personal Triggers

The first step in preventing IBS flare-ups is to identify your personal triggers. If you have not done this, it is time to see a specialist Dietitian and take this first step to finding relief: click here!

2. Follow a Low-FODMAP Diet Under Guidance

FODMAPs are certain types of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, leading to symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea in people with IBS. 

Following a low-FODMAP diet can help reduce IBS symptoms, but this should only be followed for a maximum of 6 weeks unless otherwise directed by your Dietitian. It is recommended to work with a specialist dietitian to go through the low FODMAP process. Click here for our recommended specialist Dietitian.

3. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

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

4. Stress Management 

Stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help reduce stress levels and prevent IBS flare-ups. 

Regular exercise is also an effective stress management tool that can help improve digestion and prevent constipation.

5. Regular Exercise 

Low intensity exercise can help improve digestion and prevent constipation. Walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling are all effective forms of exercise.

6. Medications 

If you're taking medications that are causing IBS symptoms, talk to your Doctor or Dietitian about switching to a different medication or adjusting your dosage. 

In some cases, medications may be necessary to manage symptoms.

In conclusion

IBS flare-ups can be very uncomfortable, but with the help of a specialist dietitian to identify triggers and implement prevention strategies, we can help manage your symptoms effectively. 

If you want to learn more about how to resolve your IBS symptoms for good, identify your triggers and rebuild a healthy gut, visit @theibsprogram for more information! 

The IBS Program is a unique program with a proven framework designed to get you relief for your IBS symptoms as fast and as effectively as possible. 

Author: Ellen Kessling, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, IBS & FODMAP Specialist

Ellen is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian & Nutritionist specialising in women’s health, gastrointestinal health and the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. 

Ellen completed her 4-year Health Science Degree at the University of Adelaide, and then went on to complete her 2-year Master's degree in Nutrition & Dietetics at Flinders University. She is a trained Monash FODMAP Dietitian and has developed expertise in gut health and IBS management, and enjoys the area of women’s health, including skin, hormones, fertility, and pre & post pregnancy nutrition.

She loves treating all areas of women's health with a holistic and empathetic approach to practice and encourages sustainable, long-term changes rather than quick fixes. She has a focus on packages and programs in her practice to provide more ongoing, specialised care and support beyond what a 1:1 consultation can offer.

She believes a well-rounded, holistic approach to care leads to more effective and sustainable results in her clients.

Need more help? Download our free low FODMAP meal plan!

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.

Before explaining what the low FODMAP diet is, there are a few things that most people don't know before starting the low FODMAP diet.

  1. The low FODMAP diet should not be trialed without the guidance of a qualified Dietitian.
  2. The low FODMAP diet should also not be followed strictly for longer than a 3-4 month period unless recommended by a Dietitian.
  3. The restricted food groups excluded from the low FODMAP diet are incredibly important for gut health and long-term health of the gastrointestinal tract and if excluded for a long period of time, this is damaging to long-term health.

See The IBS Program for more information on how to undergo the low FODMAP diet properly and resolve your symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

What is the low FODMAP diet?

The low FODMAP diet is a 3 phased diet, designed for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome to help reduce and manage their symptoms.

The low FODMAP diet is designed to reduce the consumption of certain foods called fermentable carbohydrates or FODMAPs, which can lead to symptoms in those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Certain foods are fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) which can undergo different processes during digestion, causing symptoms such as bloating, gas, urgency, abdominal pain, discomfort and varied bowel habits such as constipation and diarrhoea, or a combination of both.

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What is FODMAP?

Who should follow the low FODMAP diet?

If you have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, please book an appointment with a Dietitian to undergo The IBS Program and manage your symptoms within just a few weeks.

If you suspect you may suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, please book an appointment to consult with a qualified Dietitian.

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When is it suitable to start?

When you receive a diagnosis for Irritable Bowel Syndrome from your doctor or Gastroenterologist it is then suitable for you to consult with a Dietitian about undergoing the low FODMAP diet.

If you are experiencing symptoms and are unsure if you may have it, a Dietitian can help to guide you with what to do next.

Book an online appointment with a qualified Dietitian here.

Why is the low FODMAP diet beneficial?

For those suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the low FODMAP diet provides a variety of foods that are less fermentable and hence less symptoms causing for those suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

How long should you follow the low FODMAP diet?

The low FODMAP diet is not a lifelong diet.

It is important that you undergo the low FODMAP diet under the supervision of a qualified Dietitian trained in the area. The complete low FODMAP diet process looks different for every individual, but the maximum amount of time on the low FODMAP diet should only be 8-12 weeks unless otherwise specified by your Dietitian.

If you are suffering from symptoms of bloating, excessive gas, discomfort, abdominal pain, urgency, or varied bowel habits ranging from constipation to diarrhoea, please see The IBS Program to gain relief from your IBS.

Want help with the low FODMAP diet?

Download our FREE Low FODMAP Meal Plan below.

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