Along with diarrhea, constipation and cramping, gas and bloating are the most common symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
An estimated 25 to 45 million people in the US suffer from the symptoms of IBS, and are estimated to spend $107 billion per year to manage their symptoms.
And ladies, you’re twice as likely to suffer than a male!
Now that we’ve quantified the size of the problem, I’d like to talk about possible causes and courses of action to help you feel better – naturally!
Integrative, holistic and functional health care providers cast their net wider than the treatment of symptoms.
To fully understand and help solve your symptoms of IBS in the most effective way, it’s critical to understand the cause or causes.
There may be ten people suffering from IBS, and there may be ten different solutions.
Different solutions address the unique cause of their individual symptoms taking care of someone’s body as a system rather than individual pieces.
However, they will all have one thing in common – stress.
This stress could be nutritional, emotional or mechanical.
Nutritional stress is caused by dietary excess or an inability to digest certain nutrients and the easiest to address.
Let’s use the example of milk.
Undigested and unabsorbed lactose creates 100 times more gas volume when intestinal microbes have migrated to the small intestine than a healthy intestine. 
The human body responds to stress by adapting 
Initial adaptions are temporary.
If the stressor does not continue there’s no tissue damage or future disease
If the stressor continues, temporary adjustments become permanent.
The affected tissue sends an SOS for help.
More nutrients are needed and more waste products accumulate.
If the disposal of waste products is ineffective, or the required nutrition is unavailable, our body enters a state of exhaustion.
Learn more about stress and how our bodies adapt here. (Link to stress article)
If we experience gas, bloating and alternating constipation and diarrhea, short-term relief usually occurs by avoiding the main offending food.
In our previous example dairy could be replaced by nut or coconut milks.
However, until we find the true cause of the symptoms this is like a dog chasing its tail!
We start to eliminate other foods resulting in a very restrictive diet. Meals become repetitive and we start to miss nutrients from a varied diet.
If want to read more about the most common causes of IBS and solutions, check out this list!
Diet High in Processed Foods and Sugar
Sugar and anything that breaks down into sugar is the primary food source for bacteria.
Most processed food contains sugar and sugar like substances to improve flavor, texture or both.
In addition to your favorite carbohydrate rich food, alcohol and fermented drinks are also great food for bacteria.
Tip: Find a buddy and eliminate food containing sugar or that converts to sugar for at least two weeks. Be sure to read the labels to find hidden sugar in sauces, ketchup and chips. Avoid temptation by clearing out your cabinets, pantry and any secret stashes!
You’ll be surprised how quickly taste buds adjust and at the various sources of sugar!
Food Sensitivities and Allergies
Nora Gedgaugas says food sensitivities are the tip of the iceberg regarding our health. 
The severity and frequency provide an insight into the overall health of our bodies including our immune system, stress and overall toxic load.
Differing from food allergies with often life threatening symptoms, food sensitivities or intolerances are usually caused by foods that irritate our digestive system.
The top food allergens are eggs, milk, soy, sesame, shellfish, gluten/wheat, fish, peanuts and tree nuts.
Tip: Try an elimination diet for twelve weeks and gradually reintroduce foods to check for a reaction.
Alternatively arrange for a specialized food allergy test for a quicker result.
Imbalance of Gut Flora
SIBO (Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth) is one example of gut bacteria or flora being out of balance.
Candida, parasites and worms can all upset the delicate balance of our gut.
If dietary changes and other tests mentioned, do not resolve your symptoms, stool testing may be needed.
Tip: Perform two complimentary stool tests
Given the limited nature of individual stool tests, use of two complimentary tests is recommended. Stool testing can identify parasites and worms along with many other infections.
Lack of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are heavily involved in the process of digestion and absorption, starting with chewing.
If not available in sufficient quantities to predigest our food, we must rely on the body’s immune system to complete digestion and clean up the toxic mess.  A grave misuse of our body’s security system!
Directly tied to our food choices, enzymes are not found in processed food.
Enzymes cause unprocessed food to spoil as the enzymes use the spoiled food as a food source.
If you’re unable to obtain sufficient enzymes from your food, supplement with a good quality enzyme, taken with food or after food.
Supplementing with digestive enzymes is recommended for three to six months.
In some cases, digestive enzymes are needed permanently.
Tip: Aim for a 50% of your diet to be raw fruits and vegetables.
This maximizes the natural enzymes being consumed and supports healthy digestion and absorption.
Lack of Exercise
Apart from supplying feel good endorphins, exercise tones our body and our digestive system.
If you’ve ever had an urgent trip to the toilet after some intense physical activity, you know what I’m talking about!
As we sit more and exercise less, our organs are compressed and their functions delayed.
Tip: Plan your exercise like an important appointment.
Morning exercise helps avoid distractions later in the day and ensures a supply of endorphins!
Walking is a great exercise for everyone and can be done anywhere, including up and down stairs at work when it’s raining or snowing!
Compromised Mucosal Lining
Integrity of our gut lining, can be affected by:
Additionally, certain bacteria are able to hook into the lining of our digestive tract due to their shape and push apart the wall creating an opening for food. 
Once the lining is compromised, food particles slip into our blood stream and need to be digested by our immune system.
Tip: Take note of changes to immunity, food intolerances and mental health.
If necessary, perform two stool tests for comprehensive testing.
Include Probiotic and Prebotic Foods in Your Diet
Probiotics populate our gut with good bacteria while prebiotic foods encourage growth of good bacteria.
Probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass and miso.
Probotic beverages are often high in sugar and encourage more unfriendly bacteria.
Prebiotic foods include garlic, onion and Jerusaleum artichoke.
These foods help keep a solid population of good bacteria and act like a fertilizer.
Probiotic supplements are portable and have a known potency.
Tip: Introduce probiotics and prebiotics s-l-o-w-l-y
Not everyone’s gut is ready for probiotic supplementation and food based sources are easier and safer to introduce.
Die off reactions can be severe including vomiting, diarrhea, severe pain and bloating.
There are plenty of studies confirming the link between stress and IBS – not that you need convincing!
Whether you’re a yogi, a meditator, a painter, swimmer or a hiker, there’s a perfect de-stressing solution for everyone. Frequent practice is key as is knowing how to recognize your stress triggers
Tip: Recognize what triggers an increase in your stress levels.
Practice your stress reducing rituals consistently, not just when you feel stressed.
Consume Homemade Bone Broth
Cooked slow and long, bone broth is considered nature’s fountain of youth!
Containing many nutrients, especially essential amino acids, missing from our modern diet, bone broth supports a healthy digestive system.
Commercially marketed bone broth, unless it specficially says so, has not been cooked for long enough to release all the nutrients.
A great alternative to home made bone broth, is hydrolyzed collagen.
Treated to dissolve in hot or cold water, this product is readily available online as a substitute for bone broth.
Tip: If you need help to start, here are step by step instructions
A lesser spoken about side effect of IBS and other cases of gut dysbiosis is compromised mental health.
If it wasn’t enough to contend with gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and pain, IBS can cause unpleasant neurological and immune responses.
Often referred to as our “second brain”, our gut communicates with our brain.
If our gut senses a threat or imbalance, it sends a signal to our brain triggering a release of CRF (corticotrophin releasing factor) from the hypothalamus.
Our body is now on high alert, releasing cortisol and other stress hormones.
THIS IS SERIOUS!
When bacteria usually resident in our large intestine, head into the sterile, small intestine, we may experience insomnia, depression, anxiety and foggy thoughts.
These annoying symptoms may be explained as normal aging or stress, but there’s more to it.
Fueled by carbohydrates, SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth), usually results in bloating after meals.
The bacteria start fermenting the food you just ate and create symptoms of bloating, gas and pain.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing IBS symptoms or general gastrointestinal distress, please don’t put off getting help any longer.
If you’re unsure whom to contact, please refer to this article about how to find help (Link to ‘where to find help).
I’d love to hear from you.
 Elaine Gottschall, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Page 43
 Hans Selye, Stress of Life.
 The Enzyme Advantage, p 45
 Primal Body Primal Mind
 The Enzyme Advantage, p 73
 Gaps book p42
 Campbell McBride, Natasha, GAPS Book, p42