Irritable Bowel Syndrome: You Can Have Relief!

Nearly 20% of American adults suffer needlessly for years, even decades, with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It might be due to little or poor treatment, or misunderstanding of the condition or treatment necessary for healing. Some medical practitioners advise patients to just eat more fiber, take antidepressants or anti-spasm drugs. Some even go so far as to suggest the patient’s symptoms are purely psychological, in other words, “all in your head.” You don’t have to suffer with IBS! However, in order to alleviate or reduce the symptoms, you must address the underlying causes of why your digestive system is malfunctioning, and pursue ways to restore digestive health.

In my practice, I’ve found that there are two main causes of IBS: (1) Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the small intestine; and (2) food sensitivities.

Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Your small intestine houses nearly 60 percent of your entire immune system. There is a delicate lining between the beneficial part of the gut and the part containing bacteria and undigested food particles. It is theorized that this lining can be broken down by many assaults—a low-fiber, high-sugar diet (the white stuff), intestinal infections, stress, anti-inflammatory drugs (like steroids and NSAIDS), and antibiotics. These irritants can wreak havoc by triggering an immune response, or allergy.

You have approximately three pounds (500 species) of bacteria in your gut. Think of your gut as an old western town. When the bad guys (bad bacteria) take over the town (your gut), it’s because there aren’t enough sheriffs and deputies (good bacteria) to defend it, and this means all chaos breaks out. In your body this is called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), a major cause of IBS.

Food Sensitivities

Another major cause of IBS is food sensitivities or intolerances. These are not true allergies, like when someone eats nuts or shellfish and breaks out in hives or has to be rushed to the hospital. The symptoms are vague (bloating, constipation, weight gain) and the exposure is frequent (breakfast, lunch and dinner), so the connection is murky. Over years, after the body is exposed and reacts scores of times, the hidden sensitivities take a major toll on the immune system.

A recently published paper in the prestigious British medical journal Gut found that eliminating foods identified through delayed food allergy testing (IgG antibodies) resulted in dramatic improvements in IBS symptoms.1

What can I do if I have IBS?

IBS is a complicated condition. Although bacterial overgrowth and food sensitivities are the main culprits, there may be other complications like parasites, insufficient digestive enzymes, heavy metal toxicity, and zinc or magnesium deficiency.

Here are some suggestions on how to effectively treat IBS:

  1. Rule out infections and other diseases. Often IBS is also accompanied by bacterial or yeast infections. If your doctor diagnoses these conditions, they might prescribe a non-absorbed antibiotic and/or antifungal drug.
    You also want to have your doctor rule out other diseases such as Celiac Disease, Diverticulitis, Crohn’s Disease, and Colitis.
  1. Get tested for food sensitivities or eliminate the most common food allergens for 12 weeks: Dairy, gluten (wheat), soy, yeast, eggs, corn and peanuts are the most common foods tied to reactions. If you pursue testing, be sure to request IgG antibody testing, and use a quality lab.2 Testing can be expensive, so an alternative is to simply cut these foods out completely for three months. As you add them back in, watch carefully for the return of symptoms to help pinpoint your personal sensitivities.
  1. Invite the “good guys” back into town. Probiotics are supplements that contain millions, even billions, of good bacteria to repopulate the gut. They are easily destroyed by heat, so choose the ones that are carefully refrigerated. The probiotic strength is important, so be sure yours contains the mega amounts of bacteria necessary to treat IBS effectively. I like to prescribe a therapeutic medical grade probiotic for my patients which has proven to be effective.*
    Also eat probiotic-rich foods 2 times per day such as cultured dairy (buttermilk, low-sugar yogurt, kefir), cultured non-dairy (coconut yogurt), fermented beverages (kombucha), fermented grains (sprouted), fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, pickles, etc.), kimchi, miso, natto, and tempeh.
  1. Reduce stress. Easier said than done, I know. But stress makes everything physiologically worse in your body. Stress especially aggravates IBS. I believe prayer is the number one stress-buster, along with deep breathing, taking time for yourself, exercise and friendship.
  1. Supplement. There are a few effective supplements that are proven (from research studies) to reduce the symptoms of IBS. Along with probiotics, they are effective therapies that are helping my IBS sufferers. These supplements are individualized and can be investigated with the help of a physician or nutritionist.

IBS is a highly treatable disease. It is not necessary for you to suffer for years or decades with the irritating, sometimes debilitating symptoms. Take charge of your health today with these healing treatments.

*Disclaimer: Consult your healthcare practitioner before using any dietary supplement, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, allergic to iodine, use blood thinners, anticipate surgery, take medication on a regular basis or are otherwise under medical supervision. Small objects like pills can become inadvertently lodged in the throat. Softgels may be pierced and contents can be mixed with water, juice or food. Children should always be under adult supervision when using supplements.


  1. Alkinson, W. Sheldon, T. A, Shaath, N. , and P.J. Whorwell. (2003) Food elimination based on IgG antibodies in irritable bowel syndrome. A randomized controlled trial. GUT. 53: 1459-1464.
  2. Shanahan, F. and D. J. Whorwell, M.D. (2005) IgG-mediated food intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome: A real phenomenon or an epiphenomenum? The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 100: 1558-1559.


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