Many people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) feel confused and frustrated about the exact cause of their condition. They are often told "you have IBS" by their doctor, but never given any specific information on what it actually is and what they can do to fell better.
I know for me personally, the problem I had was that there was a lack of support and guidance, and I was made to feel like my symptoms were all in my head. No one understood what I was going through or was able to give me a step-by-step roadmap.
In this blog I am sharing the truth about what causes IBS so that you can feel empowered to take control of your IBS because you know why you are feeling the way that you are feeling.
IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. Due to the complex and multifactorial nature of IBS, the exact cause of IBS is not fully understood. However it is believed that a combination of factors may contribute to its development. These factors include:
1. Enteric Nervous System Dysfunction. This causes altered gut motility and is thought to be main cause of IBS. This is the main and most important nervous system in your gastrointestinal tract (GIT). It is often referred to as our “second brain” and plays an important role in regulating the function of your GIT including motility (its movement) and how things move within it.
2. Abnormal Gastrointestinal Motility. The muscles of your intestines contract and relax in a coordinated fashion to move food and waste through your digestive system. In people with IBS, the contractions may be too strong or too weak, leading to cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea.
3. Visceral Hypersensitivity. People with IBS have more sensitive nerve endings throughout their gut. This can lead to a heightened sensitivity to pain and discomfort in your GIT, which can cause you to experience pain or discomfort even when no physical damage or injury is present.
4. Intestinal Inflammation. Low grade inflammation in the lining of the intestine can potentially lead to the symptoms of IBS.
5. Altered Gut Microbiota. The gut microbiota is the collection of microorganisms that live in your GIT. People with IBS have an altered composition of their gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis, which may contribute to their symptoms.
6. Lifestyle and Psychological Factors. Life events, stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors can exacerbate the symptoms of IBS.
7. Food Intolerances. Some people with IBS may have difficulty digesting certain types of foods, such as carbohydrates called FODMAPs or gut irritants like fat, caffeine or alcohol. These may trigger or worsen symptoms in some people with IBS by causing bloating, gas and altered bowel habits.
8. Acute Gastroenteritis. IBS can start after a severe gut infection such as "gastro" or "stomach flu.
9. Genetics. There may be a genetic component to IBS, as the condition appears to run in families. Relatives of someone with IBS are two to three times more likely to have IBS.
10. Gender. Women are more likely to have IBS than men with 2 in 3 sufferers being female.
It's important to note that while these factors may contribute to the development of IBS, the condition is not caused by a structural problem or disease in the digestive system, and it does not lead to more serious conditions such as colon cancer.
The exact causes of IBS can also vary from person to person, and what triggers symptoms for one person may not affect another. This is why it is important to get the support of a specialised IBS dietitian (like me) as we can help you identify your individual triggers and develop a personalised management plan so you can find relief from your IBS for good because it is absolutely possible to live a completely normal life with IBS!