What Causes IBS?
For decades, members of the medical community focused on alleviating IBS symptoms like abdominal pain by targeting the colon. However, new research shows methane-producing bacteria (called archaebacteria) in the small bowel are the cause of most abdominal disorders and not the colon. The small bowel was never considered a possible source of symptoms because this area was thought by doctors to be sterile and immune from bacteria.
For those suffering from IBS symptoms, what is occurring in their small bowel is that bacteria are entering this area through a triggering event (e.g. stress) and become trapped where they don’t belong, which is called SIBO.
In this environment, the small bowel is no longer sterile and the bacteria begin to feed-off of starches in our digested food and produce hydrogen. This non-sterile environment also allows another type of bacteria, archaebacteria, to exist in the small bowel. The archaebacteria consume the hydrogen being produced and create methane gas. It’s this methane gas that slows things down and then expands in the small bowel creating the bloating, abdominal discomfort and sometimes constipation. A vicious cycle has now been created as the bacteria produce more hydrogen and the archaebacteria subsequently produce more methane.
How Is IBS Diagnosed?
The diagnostic criteria for IBS is known as the Rome IV criteria. To be labeled with IBS, you need to have pain that is relieved with defecation along with a change in stool pattern for 3 months or longer.
The process of diagnosis depends on a physical exam and a detailed medical history provided to a gastroenterologist. Your gastroenterologist will want to do additional testing and procedures to ensure the correct diagnosis is made.
These may include:
- Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan
- Blood Tests
Once a diagnosis is made, your Gastroenterologist will be able to treat accordingly with the correct natural/pharmaceutical remedy or treatment regimen for you to live an active, healthy lifestyle.
How are IBS Symptoms Treated?
Until recently, most treatments for IBS have been directed at the symptoms. This usually has been done through medicines called anti-spasmotics. They help to ease the pain but don’t last long and can increase constipation. Sometimes, doctors will resort to recommending an antidepressant in the hopes of helping their patients.
Since the concept of SIBO has been shown to be the root cause of IBS, antibiotics are now frequently used to get the small bowel back to a more sterile environment.
In my practice, I choose to treat patients I suspect of having SIBO with an OTC natural product, and if they respond to treatment then we have made the diagnosis and treated the SIBO at the same time. This product has been shown to eradicate the bacteria and improve symptoms even in patients who have failed the other regimens.