Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gut disorder affecting about 10-15% of the adult population. It involves abdominal pain or cramping, discomfort, gas and bloating, and altered bowel habits (i.e. diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between the two). So what causes IBS? By definition, IBS has no structural, inflammatory, or biochemical cause. But that doesn’t stop a Naturopathic Doctor from trying to get to the root cause!

When a patient presents to me with what looks like IBS, here are some of the things that I consider:

  • Does this patient really have IBS? Have all “structural, inflammatory, and biochemical causes” really been ruled out?
  • Could food sensitivities or intolerance be contributing?
  • Should we test for parasites or other infections?
  • Are the gut bacteria imbalanced- such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth?
  • What role is stress playing here?
  • Could heavy metal toxicity be causing these gut issues?
  • Are there any nutrient deficiencies contributing?

When I discuss these items with my patient, there is usually a considerable amount of unexplored territory. This often leads to blood work, stool analysis, or urine testing, and most important: an answer! Treatment can then be tailored to the individual patient rather than just giving antispasmodics, anti-diarrheal medications, or laxatives without addressing the root cause.

If you are suffering from IBS, please don’t accept “It’s all in your head –you’re tests came back normal,” for an answer. Listen to your body, and consider the above list of items. If you still have unanswered questions, let’s get to the bottom of them together!

Blog Post by Dr Rachel Helferty