Is it really IBS? A Naturopath’s Perspective

  • Tara Andresen

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Many people come to my clinic with a diagnosis of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) that has been given by their family doctor. IBS is essentially chronic intense colon spasms that cause pain and affect bowel regularity. However, I often find that people with an IBS diagnosis do not necessarily have this intense colon pain and are actually suffering from either food sensitivities or inadequate production of digestive factors like pancreatic enzymes, stomach acid or good gut flora. Once these issues are addressed, symptoms subside and digestion normalizes.

In treating IBS, Naturopathic Doctors work to identify food sensitivities, either through an elimination and reintroduction diet or through a lab test called the IgG Food Sensitivity Test. The IgG test looks at a person’s immune response to various foods but measuring levels of the immunoglobulin IgG in the blood. IgG immunoglobulins produce delayed sensitivity reactions which can range from digestive upset to fatigue, migraines and skin conditions. I find this test quite useful but have also successfully identified food sensitivities through the food elimination and reintroduction approach.

In addition to removing problematic foods, we look at replenishing diminished digestion factors including stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and good gut flora. As we begin chewing our food, the stomach is cued to release hydrochloric acid to start breaking down food particles. Then, this secretion of HCL signals to the pancreas to release enzymes that further breakdown food. If either HCL or pancreatic enzymes are diminished, this will impair food processing and contribute to gas, bloating and stool issues further down the line.

In addition to low HCL and enzymes, low levels of good gut flora can also result in symptoms that may be mistaken for IBS. Good gut flora resides further along the digestive tract, in the small intestine. Adequate good gut flora is required to keep the “bad” gut flora in check. If good flora levels are low, this can lead to small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) which results in gas, bloating and stool issues.

Through clinical experience and specialized lab testing Naturopaths successfully assess and treat symptoms that are often mistaken with IBS. Treatment involves food changes and replenishing the appropriate digestion factors. Often this results in complete resolution of gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.

Book your appointment with Dr. Andresen at one her Toronto naturopathic clinics.