.... What's the connection?
For those who are wondering: what is IBS? It stands for irritable bowel syndrome. There’s also IBD which is when this condition becomes chronic and will be called irritable bowel disease.
It just puts a label on your set of symptoms, but often what’s lacking are the solutions provided to heal - what if I told you that there is an underlying root cause to your symptoms, that it is reversible? That you absolutely do NOT have to live with the vicious cycle of pain and bathroom trips?
There are over 2.5 million doctor visits for IBS every year in the US.
Let’s talk about these symptoms, what you can do against them and also how IBS and constipation affect our hormones….
What are symptoms of IBS, “Leaky Gut” and digestive issues?
Bloating most days or every day (or bloating after every meal)
Constipation, loose stool or alternating between the two
Burping – particularly after food
Food particles in the stool
A reactive belly that feels worse every time you eat
Persisting gut issues that don’t improve when you cut out common problem foods like gluten and dairy
Again, if you are suffering from the below symptoms, you are having digestive issues for sure. Do you need to label it IBS, IBD, leaky gut…? I think it’s more important to get ease in your symptoms… what about you?
What you should know is, that in the long run, these symptoms will affect other body systems and can cause many chronic conditions.
I actually have a client who’s been suffering from IBS: she was also suffering from constipation and migraines - you are guessing right, they are clearly related!
We started by adapting her diet, but we also used a detailed stool panel which revealed a lack of diversity of commensal bacteria – especially the short chain fatty acid (SCFA) producing bacteria, that are necessary to keep our mucosal lining intact. Our commensal microbes possess the ability to turn pathogenic in the right environment and circumstance. Some of these "pathobiants", when present in higher abundance than we expect and coupled with low diversity of other species, often play triggering or mediating roles in IBD. This was clearly the case for her and also seeing the inflammatory triggering pathobiants present in her gut, there’s a clear link that can be made to migraines too.
But let’s get back to IBD and IBS: often in cases of IBD we also see flourishes of growth of other Gram-negative bacteria, creating a high lipopolysaccharide (LPS) load, which in itself significantly increases immune responses and inflammation. Lipopolysaccharides are considered toxins that will trigger our body or rather our immune system to release antibodies. They also reduce production of TSH and conversion from T4 to T3. Did I mention that she also had elevated TSH in her blood panel? I know it sounds like the contrary, but if your TSH is elevated, it indicates a sluggish thyroid aka not enough thyroid hormone.
Microbial patterns in IBS can vary greatly, as there are so many different ‘forms’ of IBS; it often is a perfect storm of factors for each individual. Contributing factors might be low digestive function, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), overgrowth of gas-producing bacteria, general dysbiosis and low diversity, presence of pathogens and also other factors such as the impact of stress on your GI function.
Yep there we are again talking about stress…. it can definitely be a contributing factor and might have even caused your issues in the first place. And there I am again talking about hormones ;-) As most of you know by now: stress will stimulate our adrenal glands to release our stress HORMONE…. Cortisol - exactly!
And what else does that do to our other body systems?
Our body is in survival mode and will prioritize managing the stressor present, so our digestive function, immune function, hormone production…. are all put on the back burner.
Normally, there should be a negative feedback loop that signals to the brain to stop the secretion of adrenal signaling hormones , but in a situation of constant stress, our adrenal glands are secreting more and more cortisol and overtime, our cells become resistant to cortisol and the negative feedback system becomes ineffective.
This is when our other endocrine glands get impacted too - like our thyroid: the presence of CRH will decrease the amount of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and inhibit the conversion of inactive T4 to active T3. But also our ovaries will be impacted as they will not be instructed by our brain anymore to produce FSH and LH so there will not be enough estrogen in order for ovulation to happen and as a result of no ovulation our progesterone will also be way too low.
So you see that we are double punished by 1)our gut bacteria influencing our hormone production and 2) also our adrenals inhibiting our hormone production when stressors are present.
Another common stressor on our body are food sensitivities and therefore I also brought in a detailed food sensitivity test that indicated the foods that are most inflammatory for her and that she’s been avoiding for the duration of her gut healing protocol. By healing her gut AND removing stressors such as food sensitivities from her system for the duration of the protocol, her body can actually repair & heal.
One of the main priorities was to enable her body to evacuate daily. I talked about the impact of constipation on our hormones before, if you have missed it, here is again the link to my blogpost about it.
Constipation is often the result of low digestive function, a diet too low in fiber, stress, stress, low stomach acid and as a result we are seeing bacterial overgrowth and dysbiosis. When being constipated, we are further exacerbating toxicity and hormone imbalance, as our toxins and used up hormones are sitting in our feces in our large intestine and will be reabsorbed into our blood stream if not excreted. It’s also a contributing factor to leaky gut.
But even if you are pooping every day, your transit time might be too slow: you can test this by eating sweet corn or unground flax seeds or taking active charcoal tablets and see how long it takes for them to appear in your stool. If it is more than 24 hours, your gut transit time is slow, which is not healthy.
Healing your gut is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health!
Restoring balance in your Gastrointestinal tract (gut) requires a good analysis and dedicated effort on your side. The 5 “R” protocol, is a clinical approach I am using to address pathogens and imbalances to restore balance in your gut.
Remove: Using broad spectrum antimicrobial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic or antiviral agents, that are targeting the offending pathogens.
Replace: If testing shows that you have an impaired digestion or absorption ability, it’s necessary to restore proper digestive capacity using therapeutic grade enzymes, HCL, bile salts and others.
Reinoculate: Recolonization of your microbiome with therapeutic grade beneficial bacteria.
Repair: Restore the integrity of the gut mucosa by giving support to healthy mucosal cells, as well as immune support.
Rebalance: Address whole body health and lifestyle factors such as diet to prevent future dysfunction
The only way to reverse your condition is to know what’s causing it!