Here's What's Really Causing Your IBS
(and it's not what you think)
Chasing Symptoms and Misunderstanding Causes
In today’s world, we expect answers to our questions, and we expect them quickly. When it comes to managing IBS, chasing simple and quick fixes can be as much of the problem as the IBS pattern itself.
Too often, we chase symptoms and settle for narrowly focused ideas of their causes and how to tackle them: “Just eliminate gluten.” “Eat more fiber.” “Practice meditation.” “Go on an elimination diet.” “Go on an anti-inflammation diet.” “Take Nexium.” “Worry less.” “Exercise more.” “Exercise less.” “Just relax.”
The truth is that gluten, inflammation, processed foods, problems with sleep, rest, and energy recovery, anxiety, and jangled coping strategies for addressing a high stress life are ALL potential contributors to IBS. But, NONE of them alone is likely the cause, nor is attention to any one of them likely to get you IBS relief. There really is no “quick fix” for IBS.
Why Doesn’t My Doctor Get This?
Modern medicine is only recently moving beyond the lingering influence of Germ Theory on how we treat illnesses. The discovery 200 years ago of the existence of germs coincided with a modernization of medicine. Diseases came to be defined in terms of diagnoseable causes, like bacterial infections, which required specific treatments that would be the same for every single person with that specific infection. One diagnosis. One standard treatment. Nice and simple.
The Good News and the Bad News
The view that the right diagnosis defines and determines the right treatment led to a major improvement in medical care and patient outcomes saving countless millions of lives. Knowing your physical symptoms are stemming from a staphylococcal bacterial infection leads to a very different course of treatment than does a cancer of the colon; and thank goodness for that!
But, an increasing number of conditions affecting us today are NOT reducible to single causes. No longer does a correct diagnosis lead to a specific treatment that will work for everyone sharing the same diagnosis. We are now living in a world of multiple causes where a diagnosis, such as IBS, often does very little to inform us of what treatment to pursue. In fact, two people with the same diagnosis of IBS may require and respond powerfully to two dramatically different approaches to treatment.
You know that from your own personal experience. Someone excitedly telling you about what is working for them may not work for you. Or, perhaps your own excitement about following the promise of a FODMAP diet leads to initial relief that is followed by disappointment when the diet fails to create the kind of lasting symptom control for which you had hoped. Please don’t despair.
Where Are We Headed?
We are moving toward a world of personalized, individualized medicine and healthcare, where diagnoses like IBS matter less (assuming conditions like intestinal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease have been ruled out) than does knowing about your unique and specific lifestyle, your personal history, habits, and even your hopes and dreams.
Chronic conditions, like IBS, reflect the dynamic interactions between the body, the brain, the mind, and between your internal (gut bacteria) and external worlds (environment and lifestyle).
So, what is “the REAL cause” of IBS?
IBS is a whole-body condition. IBS is NOT just a problem of the gut. IBS is a whole “bodymind” challenge. IBS is an alarm signaling that we have gone beyond the threshold of our bodymind’s ability to function well in the kind of life we are living. IBS is an invitation to pay attention to our whole-life/whole-health needs, and not get bogged down by chasing simplistic and ultimately ineffective promises of magical cures.
Learning to see IBS as the sum of multiple factors that mutually influence each other in ways that either make our symptoms worse or interact to help us build resilient health is key. Only by taking a big-picture view of IBS can you begin to see the interplay of the multiple factors involved in causing, maintaining, and ultimately in controlling IBS.
That approach, which is what IBS Relief Now is built upon, is needed to transform IBS from a chronic, infuriating, lifestyle-destroying mystery into a manageable, occasionally inconvenient process that can be effectively controlled and self-regulated, with a little help from our friends. Who are those friends?
- Our gut bacteria. We have to learn to befriend and nurture our bacteria as a foundation of strong health.
- Our food – what we put into our mouths. We must recognize and respect that what we eat is a primal act of caring – caring how we nourish ourselves, as well as caring about the way our foods and their nutrients are grown and served.
- Our bodies. Appreciating that our bodies were designed to move helps us attain higher levels of lifelong fitness. Movement is a fundamental regulator and coordinator of our bodily systems, including the digestive system. And, a body that moves also needs to rest and recover. So, attending to our body’s need for restorative sleep is key, too.
- Our minds. Learning to use our minds to tune into the needs of our brains and bodies is essential to managing the stress load we carry, and how stress levels impact the biology of our brains and guts. Knowing how to soothe, quiet, and calm the bodymind is key.
- Our relationships. We are social creatures. The quality of our relationships powerfully shapes the quality of our bodies and our lives. Cultivating healthy relationships is as central to managing IBS as is cultivating a healthy gut microbiome. Relationship health is another key.
Is there really a way to move beyond symptom patterns and achieve a healthier and more balanced life. My years of experience have taught me that the answer is YES!
I designed the IBS Relief Now program as a structured, online program that attends to each of these “friends.” The program is intended to support the efforts you pursue on your own and in relationship with your health care professional(s).
Consistent practice attending to each of the elements contained in IBS Relief Now can make an important difference in helping you achieve more vigorous and resilient health. I invite you to join in and share your experiences with the growing community of individuals pursuing IBS relief as they simultaneously expand and enrich their lives.