Gut Health and IBS Nutritionist for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Is IBS ruining your life?
Find out the underlying causes and most effective strategies for common symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
I am an gut health and IBS nutritionist and work with women in Devon and across the UK who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. If you are struggling with IBS, you are certainly not alone, IBS affects a huge number of people. A whopping two out of every ten people have IBS – that’s over 13 million people in the UK alone, making it one of the most common chronic gut health issues that people are having to cope with. Symptoms can vary and you may not experience IBS in the same way as someone else. The most common symptoms include diarrhoea, urgency, constipation, changes in appearance of your stool, bloating, excess wind, abdominal pain or tummy cramps, passing mucus, nausea and fatigue.
Have you tried to get help with your IBS only to be disappointed?
Unfortunately the standard options for treating IBS are very limited, including recommendations for the low FODMAP diet and a small number of pharmaceutical drugs, such as laxatives, anti-diarrheal medicine and antispasmodics. The problem with this approach is that whilst these strategies may help to reduce symptoms, they will not address the underlying cause. This means that many people are only able to manage symptoms rather than resolve them. In fact, 50% of people with IBS have been dealing with its effects for over 10 years.
Fortunately, due to advancements in our understanding of the underlying issues that can lead to IBS, and the development of cutting edge testing methods, we are able to dig much deeper into the root causes of IBS symptoms. Answers provided by laboratory tests, combined with targeted diet and lifestyle interventions can provide real hope and effective solutions for people struggling with unpleasant IBS symptoms.
I can’t believe what a journey I have been on these last few months and I am so thankful that I found Anoushka when I did. I would highly recommend her to anyone who is seeking support with gut issues. My results have been incredible and I never thought I’d see the day where I feel so good within myself and my body.
What causes IBS?
IBS can develop at any point during your life, and symptoms can increase or decrease in severity over time.
Here are some of the most common causes of IBS:
Many people’s journey with IBS starts suddenly after an infection. Perhaps you got a nasty bout of food poisoning from a restaurant, or experienced an intense bout of travellers diarrhea whilst on holiday and your gut was never the same afterwards. This is called post-infectious IBS and is triggered by infection from a bacteria, virus or parasite. Infection can alter gut function, disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut and negatively impact motility in your colon, all of which can lead to chronic symptoms of IBS.
SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
As the name suggest, SIBO is characterised by an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. When too much bacteria take a hold in your small intestine, the bacteria can interfere with the process of digestion by fermenting your food. Fermentation creates a lot of gas, and it is this increase in gas that is behind many of the common IBS symptoms. SIBO can also lead to nutritional deficiencies such as anaemia, as the bacteria is using the nutrients in your food before your gut is able to complete the process of digestion and absorption. You can read more about SIBO and how to address it here. There are two main types of SIBO (hydrogen dominant and methane dominant SIBO), which are addressed differently. SIBO can be diagnosed using a SIBO breath test, which you can read about below.
When you are experiencing stress, your sympathetic nervous system (‘fight/ flight mode’) kicks in and your digestive system more or less shuts down. There is a very good reason for this – your body doesnt want to waste time and resources on digesting food when it is trying to get you out of a dangerous situation. This goes back to our caveman days; when faced with a terrifying sabre tooth tiger eyeing us up for their lunch, or a sudden avalanche of rocks, our fight/flight response kicked in allowing us to run, fight or reach a place of safety. Whilst this is happening, your gastric secretions shut down and motility grinds to a holt. This can lead to food sitting and fermenting in your gut, which can lead to a multitude of symptoms. In modern times our stressors may look different, but the impact on your gut is the same. That is why if you are experiencing a stressful time in your life, you are much more likely to experience IBS symptoms.
Overuse of antibiotics
Your gut contains an incredible ecosystem of different microbes (collectively dubbed your ‘microbiome), and too many antibiotics can be hugely disruptive to this ecosystem. The health, diversity and abundance of your gut bugs is key to a healthy, well functioning gut, so the more the balance of your gut bugs is upset through antibiotics, the more likely you are to develop ‘dysbiosis’ (imbalance in your gut bacteria), which can be a big driver for IBS symptoms
What gut health tests are useful for IBS?
IBS symptoms can be absolutely miserable, and many people who end up at my clinic are disheartened, frustrated and fed up. Fortunately there are some excellent laboratory tests out there, which can help to find answers and enable me to create a targeted strategy that gets you on the road to feeling better. It is one of my favourite parts of this work – many people express how amazing it is to see tangible results from testing as to why they are not feeling good. Just because nothing has been found on the tests you’ve done already, doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong!
Here are the three most important tests I use for assessing gut health:
Stool analysis can provide a huge amount of information about how your gut is functioning. It can assess how well you are digesting your food, whether or not your gut is inflamed, the balance of your gut bacteria and identify the presence of any pathogens that may be contributing to symptoms. My go to test is the Gi Ecologix, which you can read more about here. All that is required is a small sample of stool, which is sent to the laboratory for analysis. This test covers much more than a stool test run by your GP, which generally only looks at a handful of markers. The Gi Ecologix provides comprehensive analysis of all areas of gut and microbiome health. I have always found this test incredibly helpful for getting answers and highlighting areas of priority.
SIBO breath test
This test measures the amount of hydrogen or methane that you breathe out after drinking a mixture of glucose or lactulose solution and water. A rapid rise in exhaled hydrogen or methane gas can indicate bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. It requires a 24-48 hours preparation diet for accurate results.
Another test which I often use, especially for cases of suspected fungal/ yeast overgrowth (such as candida), is the Organic Acids Test (OAT), which you can read about here. This test measures the amount of compounds called organic acids that are present in a sample of your first urine produced in the morning.
All of my health issues (digestive and non digestive) have gone. It has been remarkable and has completely changed my life for the better!
How can gut health nutritional therapy and functional medicine help with IBS?
As a gut health nutritionist, my approach for IBS is to take a look at absolutely everything that could be affecting your gut health. Together we look at all aspects of your health history, family history, significant life events or illnesses that may have impacted your gut, diet and lifestyle. Working in this way we have the time to explore everything without feeling rushed. Thorough questioning enables me to a get a proper sense of all the possible causes of your IBS, and what may be triggering/ perpetuating your symptoms. It also enables me to put a personalised strategy together, and to direct me towards which tests would be the useful to get you some answers on why your gut is unhappy.
Whilst waiting for test results, I focus on optimising every part of your digestion, from how well you chew your food, to assessing for nutritional deficiencies that may be impacting your ability to produce enough gastric secretions that are needed for you to break down your food properly. I place particular emphasis on your nervous system and stress levels, as this is always relevant for gut health as the functioning of your gut and nervous system are so intimately intertwined! If you work on your gut without working on your nervous system at the same time you will get limited results. We also look at therapeutic diets and what dietary approach may be best for you to start seeing results and reduce your symptoms so you can be more comfortable quickly. You will also get started on a supplement protocol (if i think it is necessary) which is the cherry on top of the rest of the strategies, helping to gently encourage your gut back to optimal health, address deficiencies, get your gut motility back in good working order, support your beneficial gut bacteria and sooth your gut lining. There is lots to be done and it is certainly not a one size fits all approach. Your body is completely unique and so your strategy must be too!
By taking a complete overview of digestive health combined with functional testing, this approach is often more successful in providing long term IBS relief than conventional treatment. It is also a wonderful journey to go on to understand your body better and you come away with a whole toolbox of things to support yourself in the longterm. Alongside relief from IBS symptoms, many clients find that improving their digestive health also has far reaching effects on other areas, such as improved sleep, increased energy, better mood, glowing skin and easier periods.
Ready to start your journey? Book your free discovery call
If you would like to have a chat about your digestive symptoms and see how I may be able to help, I’d love to hear from you.