How to Recognize IBS’ Common Cause and Triggers - dummies

How to Recognize IBS’ Common Cause and Triggers

By Carolyn Dean, L. Christine Wheeler

The main issues with the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) aren’t unique to IBS. Anyone can suffer gut symptoms but in IBS, the symptoms never seem to stop. Following are clues about what likely causes IBS and the triggers you can avoid to lessen the likelihood of an IBS attack.

What causes IBS

The only medically accepted cause of IBS is a history of having a previous gut infection. In surveys of people with IBS, the only common association that stands out is an intestinal infection, whether that’s stomach flu, food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea, or something else.

Whether the infectious organisms or the antibiotics used to treat the infection are the underlying cause is still unclear. The solution is to be sure and take probiotics whenever you have a gut infection or take an antibiotic.

Certain people may just be susceptible to IBS, so they may go on to develop chronic symptoms after an acute infection. But medical research isn’t complete enough to confirm that theory because nobody knows the criteria for being susceptible to IBS.

What triggers an attack

By definition, a trigger is something that initiates a process or a reaction. Certain factors may trigger symptoms of IBS in some people. If that sounds vague, that’s because it is — each person is unique, and though you and your neighbor may have similar IBS symptoms, your triggers probably aren’t the same.

  • The food you eat: Yes, sad to say, food is a trigger for IBS. But what type of food triggers you and what type of reaction it triggers is very individual.

  • How you eat: If you don’t chew your food properly, or if you drink too much liquid with your meals, your food remains partially undigested and is fodder for intestinal microorganisms. Not enough hydrochloric acid in your stomach and/or not enough pancreatic enzymes can create similar circumstances.

    Also, eating large meals might cause the intestinal sphincters between your small and large intestine to open too soon and rush your undigested food through and cause diarrhea.

  • Previous negative reactions to foods: If you’ve had a negative reaction to a food in the past, your brain may decide that that particular food is never going to be good for you and set off alarm bells the next time you’re even in its presence.

    The food doesn’t even have to pass your lips before your stomach starts to tighten up as if it’s going to war. And the really nasty part of this whole story is that the food in question may not have even caused your symptoms in the first place.

  • Emotions: Foods and emotions, especially stress, can trigger the release of serotonin in the gut, leading to some of your symptoms. This connection occurs because an amazingly high 90 percent of the serotonin feel-good hormone in the body arises from the gut.

    Stress comes in many forms. In fact, one aspect of IBS can be an uncontrollable urge to control. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it may explain why a loss of control in the intestines is often paralleled by a loss of control in life. Diarrhea is a complete loss of intestinal control, and constipation is a clamping down to try to maintain control, resulting in cramps, pain, and distention.

  • Yeast: Alone or in combination, the overuse of antibiotics, a high-sugar diet, stress, cortisone, hormones, and other factors can all lead to an overgrowth of yeast in your gut, which can cause some nasty effects.

  • Antibiotics: Although sometimes they’re necessary to kill dangerous bad bacteria and can be life saving, they can also take out the good bacteria in your system.

    Actually, these drugs aren’t too smart; they are supposed to kill off bad bacteria that are causing your symptoms, but instead they mow down every bacteria in their path, throwing the healthy gut flora completely out of balance and opening the door for yeast to migrate from the large intestine to the small intestine, causing symptoms of gas, bloating, and stool changes.

    Take antibiotics when you need them and you can replace the good bacteria with probiotics.