Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is Your Bowel Irritable?

Is your Bowel Irritable?

Poor digestion is often the cornerstone to most health problems.  If you are not digesting your food properly, you are not getting the nutrients you need.  As well, the toxins that your body is trying to expel are sitting there for longer than they should.  This can lead to any number of problems including cancer, arthritis, fatigue, migraines and depression.  Many symptoms will get better by improving digestion so it is very important to make sure that your gut is working properly.

Normally, a person should have at least one bowel movement a day.  It should feel complete and exit the body without pain or excessive straining.  It should be a light to medium brown colour and a solid consistency with no undigested food or mucous.  If you ever have a stool that is black or bloody see a doctor immediately as this indicates bleeding somewhere in your digestive tract.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a diagnosis of exclusion.  This means that people are given this diagnosis when other reasons for their symptoms can’t be found.  Common symptoms are constipation or diarrhoea, urgency to have a bowel movement, a small volume of stool or pain in the abdomen all while appearing otherwise healthy.  Although IBS can seem to have no reason, for many people there are actually causes to their symptoms that can be treated.  Some causes are a high stress lifestyle, poor diet, being sedentary or most commonly food intolerances.  Another common cause is intestinal dysbiosis which is when there is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut.  This can be caused by antibiotics, anti-acids, stress and infections.  It is important to make sure that your gut bacteria is in balance otherwise symptoms can simply get worse.

If you have these symptoms, you should make sure that you are checked for inflammatory bowel disease (crohn’s or ulcerative colitis) and diverticulitis through imaging studies, a viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection through fecal tests or colorectal cancer through colonoscopy.  These other problems can look like IBS but have more serious consequences. 

Treatment for IBS needs to be specific for the patient as the causes and symptoms are individual, but a place to start is finding any food intolerances, increasing soluble fibre (fruits and veggies) and taking probiotics (good gut bacteria).

Contact your local Naturopathic Doctor to receive a personalized treatment plan.