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Science Explains 5 Causes For IBS Flare-Ups

IBS is a thing. But, it’s a thing that people avoid talking about. Even doctors fail to properly acknowledge it, but the data is stacking up and the conclusion is clear - irritable bowel syndrome is a thing.

IBS is the second most common reason for absence from work. It is a condition that affects around 15% of the population and it is the number one gastrointestinal complaint. But, what is the root cause of IBS? There are lots of factors to consider and science is learning that there may not be a single identifiable cause, so it is important to take a holistic view of the body. 

Lifestyle habits and individual circumstances play a huge part. This includes genetics, diet, exercise, stress levels, hormones, etc. But, inside your gastrointestinal tract exists an entire secret world of bacteria that not only influences your gut health but can be said to be your gut health.

In other words, the balance of living organisms living inside you will determine whether or not you are in for a good time when you eat your favourite meals, or whether you will experience extreme discomfort. Luckily, you can influence this over time by taking a conscious approach to what you put into your body, but that starts with knowing more about how your gut works, and this article aims to guide you into understanding your gut better, so you can look after it properly.


SIBO, which is not as cute as it sounds, stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. 

Your large intestines normally have vast quantities of bacteria living in them, whereas your small intestine has relatively few. When the bacteria in your large intestine overpopulate, they begin colonising in your small intestine. 

When there is an increase in the number or type of bacteria in the small intestine it can be the cause of complications in your gut and this root cause is identified by medical professionals as SIBO. 

The complications can include bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and sometimes all of these symptoms. The reason this happens is that the species of bacteria that normally live in the large intestine, ferment carbohydrates into hydrogen gas, or because archaea (not actually bacteria) produce methane gas. This is a primary cause of bloating, stomach cramps and often foul-smelling outbursts of wind.

Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome 

Your gut has its very own ecosystem that comprises a complex community of over 100 trillion microorganisms - that’s more bacteria cells than human cells! 

These microorganisms influence a number of your bodily functions, including your metabolism, physiology, nutrition, digestion, and even your psychology. Collectively, these microorganisms are referred to as your microbiome. 

This ecosystem, like any ecosystem, works best when there is balance in order. This means, a sufficient range of diversity and enough of the good stuff to counter the effects of the not-so-good stuff.  When your gut’s balance is disrupted it can cause the onset and exacerbation of IBS.

This has been proven in a recent study that indicated that up to 83% of patients suffering from IBS have abnormal faecal biomarkers, while 73% have an unbalanced or disrupted gut microbiome, which is often referred to as intestinal dysbiosis.

This is quite difficult to test for using conventional methods because it is not the specific presence of something that determines the health status of your gastrointestinal tract, but rather the balance or ratio of diverse species of bacteria. 

A helpful tip: If possible, avoid over-reliance on antibiotics because they can have severe consequences on your gut microbiome. Of course, if you are very sick and your doctor advises you to, then you should listen, but consider natural remedies at the earliest signs that you are developing a cold.  

Intestinal Hyperpermeability

The lining of your small intestine acts as a natural barrier and defence mechanism for your bloodstream. A bit like a border force, it controls what is allowed to pass through, i.e nutrients and what is not, i.e. toxins, pathogens and undigested food particles, etc. 

When your intestines are not properly controlling what it lets into your bloodstream and toxins and undigested foods freely pass, this is called intestinal hyperpermeability, or leaky gut syndrome. 

This causes an immune response as your body begins attacking the toxins to remove them. When this happens frequently it leads to a number of gastrointestinal and indeed several other health complications. 

Gut infections 

The three main causes of gut infections are bacteria, parasites, and fungi/yeast. Your body is normally quite apt at dealing with the most common types of bacteria thanks to our immune system, but they evolve over time, which means our immune system needs to update itself. 

Our stomach produces acid to kill as many bacteria and parasites as possible during digestion, which keeps us from having strong immune responses too often. That’s because immune responses cause inflammation, which is not good for your body.

Too much inflammation can weaken the immune response over time, as can the effects of stress, intoxication, fatigue, and food sensitivities. That’s why it is best to take good care of yourself.

A helpful tip: Taking care of your body and mind goes a long way to improving your gut health and mental health. Try exercising and meditation to reduce stress levels, which will impact the frequency and severity of IBS symptoms and inflammation in your body.   

Food sensitivities 

Food sensitivities, which are not to be confused with allergies, are typically when your body struggles to digest certain food items. Allergies are when food items provoke an immune response due to inflammation it causes. 

The most common culprits for IBS sufferers include gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts. The symptomatic response includes bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation, sometimes a combination of all of these. 

Recent research points towards acknowledging food sensitivities as a cause of IBS, but it is very often the case that food sensitivities are an indication of an underlying issue such as those mentioned above.

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