Gas, bloating, cramping, pain, diarrhea, constipation… These are the common, uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms of IBS. Understandably, these aren’t common dinner table topics so many people don’t discuss their experience. They may think most people feel the same way. They may feel that there is nothing they can do.

 Those that have investigated their concerns are often left with the same conclusions.

Many have been told to “learn to live with it”.  Slightly better, some are told to figure out which foods cause them problems and then don’t eat them. And slightly better than that, some are told to follow a low FODMAPs diet, which can be highly restrictive and runs the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies over time.  

Many are exhausted, physically and mentally. Many are malnourished due to only tolerating a limited number of, usually low-nutrient density foods.

Some patients come in with IBS as secondary concern or barely mention it because they already feel that nothing can be done about it.

But nothing is farther from the truth.

Naturopathic care aims to identify and address the underlying cause of these annoying and uncomfortable symptoms. IBS is an incomplete diagnosis and likely has multiple underlying causes. Investigating and treating the underlying causes can result in significantly improved quality of life.

The first line of testing I often employ is a 3-hour lactulose breath test. This is a simple at-home test that helps identify a dysbiosis called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), a condition in which bacteria colonize the small intestine in excessive amounts. This results in their access to partially digested foods and an increased potential for fermentation, the resulting gas responsible for the bloating and disordered bowel movements characteristic of IBS. If SIBO is identified, an eradication protocol decreases bacterial numbers and a prevention plan helps to prevent recurrence.

SIBO isn’t the only cause of IBS, but is hypothesized to underlie a significant amount of IBS cases.

Keep an eye out for future blogs going more in-depth in SIBO and its treatment. But for now consider the possibility of not living with constant bloating, not having to plan out where bathrooms will be when you leave the house, and actually being able to make plans ahead of time.

  • Dr. Ryan Nakama ND