“I have a gut feeling!”
This is an expression that most of us say when we have a strong instinct about something. It looks like there might be a basis for this expression! Many health practitioners say that the gut is the “second brain”. Our emotions have a strong connection to our gut. Notice that when you’re under stress or you’re tense, you tend to experience discomforts such as bloating, diarrhea and indigestion.
Stomach upsets are normal now and then, but if your discomforts are persistent, you might want to consider Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
IBS is a gut condition that affects 11% of people around the world. In the United States, 10% to 15% of the adult population suffer from IBS, but only 6% to 7% are diagnosed. IBS is also more common in women than in men, and menopausal women are especially vulnerable. Curious why?
Heal your gut and avoid being “gutted” by knowing the causes of irritable bowel syndrome – start reading this article! 😉
Is Menopause One of the Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Find out what IBS really is first! Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common and long-term condition that affects the large intestine or colon. Many think the large intestine is only an “accessory” organ of our digestive system. Besides pushing poop down our anus, the large intestine does other dirty jobs for you too:
- Reabsorb water and maintain fluid balance
- Absorb nutrients from food
- Process tough-to-digest foods like meat and fiber
- Store food leftovers and convert them into feces
- Aid in bowel movement
The large intestine is a sensitive part of your gut because it is lined with plenty of nerve cells. This explains why your gut reacts when you have imbalances in other corners of your body. You’ve probably heard of women who have diarrhea, constipation while others have both. That’s because IBS has three types! IBS with diarrhea happens when your intestines are hyper, so it expels food faster. IBS with constipation occurs because your intestines are sluggish. IBS mixed is an unpredictable type of IBS. You might suffer from episodes of diarrhea and constipation. You may also experience other symptoms such as bloating, distension and bowel incontinence. Low back pain and fatigue are also common. Experts can’t pinpoint the exact cause of IBS. They say it’s a combination of poor diet, too much stress, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), digestive conditions and faulty communication between your brain and gut. Know how SIBO causes irritable bowel syndrome in our FACT BOX below!
On the other hand, menopause itself doesn’t cause IBS, but hormonal changes during this time can play with your gut.
Your gut depends on estrogen and progesterone big time. In fact, your gut has thousands of estrogen and progesterone receptors. Estrogen and progesterone tell your gut when to digest, release stomach acids, propel food to your anus and relax. These two hormones also have anti-inflammatory effects which are good for food intolerance. Estrogen and progesterone also regulate cortisol, a hormone that offsets gut balance when not controlled properly.
When your female hormones decrease in menopause, it makes your digestive system sluggish. If you already have IBS, or you have gut discomforts, menopause might make your symptoms worse.
Besides this, our aging gut can’t take the same foods as before, so inflammation occurs, and stomach upsets become common.
Heal the Gut With 9 Natural Remedies for IBS That Work!
IBS is a long-term condition, but you can manage the symptoms with a healthy lifestyle. Here are tips to start healing your gut!
1. Track what you eat.
This should be your first step! Find out what triggers your symptoms by keeping a food diary or journal and do the elimination diet. This way of eating requires you to stay away from certain foods for a few weeks. You reintroduce each food to your diet one at a time, and see which ones produce a reaction in your body.
2. Eat a gut and hormone-balancing diet!
- Cut out gluten, dairy and sugar.
- Choose high-quality organic and unprocessed foods!
- Eat more omega-3 rich foods such as salmon, herring, sardines and seaweeds. Have more fiber-rich foods like dark leafy greens, quinoa, hemp and chia.
- Eat healthy proteins like seafood and organic grass-fed meat. Replace your oils with olive and coconut.
- Sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha are delicious foods with lots of probiotics (live bacteria) which is good for the gut!
- Enhance probiotics absorption with prebiotics! Consume chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, leek, dandelion greens and asparagus.
- Have more garlic and ginger! Garlic helps expel intestinal gases while ginger is rich in gingerols, compounds that prevent inflammation in your gut. Besides garlic and ginger, there are also other herbs with strong anti-inflammatory properties; examples include turmeric and spirulina.
- Treat yourself to bone broth! Bone broth is rich in amino acids especially glutamine and collagen, two main building blocks of your gut.
- An apple a day keeps IBS away! Apple peels prevent inflammation and IBS. Dr. Michael Ash recommends stewed apples or apple sauce. We love this stewed apple recipe for IBS by Ananda Mahony!
- Hydrate, because water helps in the digestion of fiber, which makes your poop softer.
A friendly reminder! Bad bacteria in the gut love fiber. Consume fiber in moderation but don’t eliminate them in your diet.
3. Intermittent fasting is a great way to give your gut a well-deserved rest. If you don’t eat, there’s nothing to grind, so your gut has a merry old time relaxing!
4. Stress is the mother of all diseases, and it happens to mess up your gut too. Cortisol, aka the stress hormone, is your gut’s worst enemy so tame it by slowing down. Meditate, do deep breathing, yoga and qigong – take your mind off the stress!
5. Your gut is a muscle, so you need to move to keep it active! Brisk walking, jogging, biking and strength training are good exercises. They get rid of toxins, increase blood supply in your gut and regulate digestion.
6. Support your gut with magnesium, vitamin A, amino acids and digestive enzymes. Digestive breaks down food into smaller pieces so nutrients can be absorbed better and faster. Aging decreases our digestive enzymes, so we need to support our body.
7. Poop daily. Food that stays in the stomach too long can lead to bacterial overgrowth, so be sure to poop every day!
8. Eat the French way! French people don’t prefer having snacks between meals. They also spend quite a lot of time chewing their food. By the time they leave their favorite restaurants or cafés, they’ve digested the food they ate.
9. You need sleep, and so does your stomach! It is on duty almost 24/7. Try to reward it by having a restful sleep. When you relax, your gut also relaxes. Dr. Amy Myers’ book, “The Autoimmune Solution”, has plenty of preventive measures. There are good tips for menopause, chronic headaches, allergies, asthma, obesity and IBS. Go check it out!
Dr. Josh Axe has some great tips for IBS too – especially about the food you eat! Watch him here [7:40]:
IBS Can Affect Your Menopause Experience Too!
IBS and menopause have a complicated relationship, more like cats and dogs. Their symptoms clash, and they negatively affect each other.
Your body sees menopause as a stressor, add IBS into the picture, and it can make things more challenging. It may increase the intensity of your menopause symptoms, because your gut also produces hormones. It is the main supplier of serotonin, a feel-good and calming hormone. IBS can make serotonin levels dip. This worsens menopause symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, hot flashes and sleep problems. Besides, low serotonin lowers your pain tolerance during menopause.
Irritable bowel syndrome can also mask the symptoms of menopause. Menopause and IBS have some similar symptoms, and it may be hard to pinpoint which is which!
Take a Test to Know If You Have IBS!
The breath test is one important test to take if you suspect IBS. It measures the amount of hydrogen and methane in the breath. These gases are created from bacteria. The breath test helps you check if your symptoms are lactose intolerance, SIBO or other infections. You can also take a stool test to check if your poop has bacteria. Food sensitivity is one of the causes of irritable bowel syndrome. It can lead to repeated inflammation in your gut, which triggers IBS symptoms. For this reason, it’s good to be wary of foods that the gut can’t tolerate.
Guess what… everybody poops and farts!
We all giggle about these things, but digestion is a normal and natural process. Nevertheless, it’s a topic that people are uncomfortable and embarrassed to talk about. IBS is a health problem that can affect our day-to-day life. Start healing the gut with a healthy diet, an active lifestyle and better stress management to prevent IBS symptoms!
Gut flora imbalance or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is one of the major causes of irritable bowel syndrome. SIBO happens when gut bacteria overgrow beyond normal.
Our gut has natural bacteria called candida. They help digest food and absorb nutrients. When there’s an offset in the balance, food stays longer in our gut and fermentation takes place. This results in stomach discomforts. SIBO can also lead to malnutrition because your gut can’t absorb nutrients anymore.
Besides SIBO, IBS can result from other digestive conditions; a leaky gut is an example. A leaky gut happens when there are gaps in the intestinal linings. These gaps allow wastes, undigested food and bacteria to enter your bloodstream. They cause widespread inflammation in your gut, and as a result, you may develop IBS. Dr. Doni has more explanations about leaky gut, how to know if you have it and what you can do about it.
Diverticulosis is also another digestive condition that leads to IBS. It happens when you have small pouches or weak spots in your colon. A low-fiber diet is the main culprit of this condition. In addition to all these causes, medications such as antibiotics, anti-acidity and psychiatric medications cause a disturbance in the gut.