Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a commonly used term to group together a range of gastrointestinal disturbances such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. IBS is a condition that is often poorly understood and treated.
In naturopathy our main aim is always to identify and treat the root cause of any health concern, so when looking at patients suffering from gastrointestinal disturbances there can be a number of underlying causes and we can work with you to uncover and remove hidden food intolerances and restore the production of digestive acid and enzymes which may be the key to resolving your IBS issues. However often there are also other underlying disturbances such as persistent and unidentified parasite infections, short intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and dysbiosis of the gastrointestinal microbiome.
Parasitic infections such as Blastocystis hominis (BH) and Dientameoba fragilis have emerged as one of the many causes for IBS. BH has been found to be as high at 70% in patients with IBS.
The difficulty in identifying BH as the cause for IBS can often be in the testing, common one-sample stool microscopy tests have a low detection rate of 48% compared to more sensitive testing such as PCR with a 94% detection rate. It is important when dealing with any parasitic infection that retesting is completed via appropriate stool tests rather than other less conventional methods to ensure the appropriate diagnosis.
Short intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
SIBO is a condition in which abnormally large amounts of commensal bacteria are present in the small intestine and this can cause abdominal discomfort, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea and intolerance to certain foods. SIBO has been found in a large percentage of patients suffering from IBS and can often be triggered after a bout of food poising or acute gastroenteritis.
A microbial imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract is often referred to as dysbiosis, this may either be a pre-existing condition or may be induced after antibiotic treatment. This imbalance may trigger symptoms such as altered bowel motions, abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and food intolerances. Dysbiosis is also commonly diagnosed alongside BH infections.
When working with a naturopath a thorough case history is taken including current and past medical history as well as a detailed dietary analysis. Testing may be recommended in some cases to identify and assist in the management of certain infections. Using dietary and lifestyle interventions alongside nutritional and herbal medicine a naturopath can assist you to identify the root causes behind your tummy troubles and get you back to feeling healthy.
If you're interested in finding out more about how I can help you resolve your digestive complaints you can book your free 10-minute consultation here
Written by Natalie Earles (Clinical Naturopath).