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My Top 8 Tips for IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Wondering if you have IBS? In this article, I get right to it, approaching this disease from a Holistic Nutritionist standpoint. I will tell you what IBS is, what the causes have been linked to, and if you suffer from IBS or think you may have it but have yet to be diagnosed, I also include some tips at the bottom to help give you some relief.

So let’s get to it.

What is IBS? Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an uncomfortable and often painful condition that affects about 10 to 23 percent of people worldwide.

It is estimated that an average of 300,000 Canadians live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Our senior population (aged 65 and over) are the fastest-growing group of Canadians with IBD, and our healthcare system must be prepared to face this challenge. Sadly, Canadians living in rural areas are less likely to receive gastroenterologist care, which has consequences on long-term outcomes. What's worse is there are over 7,000 Canadian children (under age 18) living with IBS/IBD. This statistic has risen by more than 50% in the past 10 years. I believe this is directly connected to North American Diets, high processed food lifestyles, increased amounts of sugar and starch and lack of hydration, fibre and stress in our society.

We have to start addressing food behaviours, lifestyle, stress, sleep and hydration, which are all factors that when out of balance can be linked to this condition.

Not surprisingly, IBS is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor—accounting for over three million doctor visits annually. And its annual cost is two billion dollars in lost productivity and health care costs.

Unfortunately, most doctors have no clue how to treat it or what’s really causing it.

IBS is the label that doctors give you if you experience symptoms like:

bloating or gas, distention, constipation, diarrhea, ( or an alternation of both), and cramping in the lower abdomen. Like its name suggests, IBS occurs when your bowel becomes inflamed and irritated. So, you see your doctor and they suggest a colonoscopy. Terrific in theory but 9 times out of 10, your scope looks completely normal. There is no structural problem, no tumor, no polyps, no obvious cause. Frustrating for so many who are just looking for a solution to a very uncomfortable problem.

But what if I told you there are five reasons, I believe are the root causes of disease: Allergens, toxins, poor diet, stress, and microbes or an imbalance of the bugs in your belly. All of these can trigger symptoms and create a myriad of diseases. Once you identify the cause of your irritable bowel, you can get rid of it once and for all. It’s extraordinary how simple it is once we know the right thing to do.


This is where nutrition and looking for a root cause comes in. The root problem is easy, there is dysfunction in your gut ecosystem. An imbalance of good and bad bacteria, lack of positive microbes that provide the foundation for digesting and assimilating the foods you eat. You may have suffered a trauma that kick-started your symptoms 10 years prior to you seeking medical attention (perhaps food poisoning or travellers' diarrhea).

Most doctors will often suggest eating more fiber or taking Metamucil, but that’s generally not very effective as the root of the problem lies in your ecosystem. So, while fibre can be effective, we must do some fact-finding to unveil any parasites, viruses, mineral, or nutrient imbalances. Once we know what is behind the challenge, we can begin to reset the delicate balance in your gut!

What we know, in Holistic Health Care, is that one disease can have many causes, or that one cause can create many diseases—like dairy or gluten intolerance/sensitivity. If you have 10 people with IBS, for example, the causes may be quite different for each person.

Food sensitivities are very common, and the most widespread thing in food that people react to is gluten. That’s the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.

It’s a very common reaction even if you don’t have celiac disease, which is a full-blown autoimmune reaction to gluten. Even if your doctor tells you that your test results for gluten antibodies or celiac are normal, you can still have a severe reaction to gluten. There is mounting research linking glyphosate spray to non-celiac Gluten sensitivity:

Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multifactorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk to thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer. Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup®, is the most important causal factor in this epidemic. Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria.

Dairy is another big problem. About 75 percent of people can’t digest the lactose in dairy, which results in bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Even if you don’t have lactose intolerance, dairy can create problems. Dairy contains proteins, such as casein and whey, that can cause irritation and inflammation in your gut. There are many, many other foods people can have reactions to, including soy, corn, and eggs. A landmark paper, published in the prestigious British medical journal Gut, found that eliminating foods identified through delayed food allergy testing (IgG antibodies) resulted in dramatic improvements in IBS symptoms. Another article, an editorial in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, stated clearly that we must respect and recognize the role of food allergies and inflammation in IBS.

My recommendations for starting your journey to better gut health:

  1. Eat an 80% plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that are high in fiber, and consume healthy fats.

  2. Combine the carbohydrates you eat with protein and fat, at every single meal.

  3. Kick your sugar habit for good. A diet full of empty calories and quickly absorbed sugar, liquid sugar calories, and refined carbohydrates—all of which convert to sugar—creates high insulin levels, eventually leading to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Chronically high insulin levels lead to many problems, including inflammation, high blood pressure, increased risk for cancer, anxiety and depression and even low libido.

  4. Stock up on real foods. Whole, unprocessed, real foods heal your gut, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and improve your liver detoxification. Whole foods turn on all the right cell messengers and promote a healthy metabolism.

  5. Avoid all gluten and dairy. Sorry all, It's not the food that is bad but what our modern commercial farming practices are doing to it that is making us sick and keeping us that way.

  6. Avoid all processed junk food, including sodas, juices, and diet drinks, which impact sugar and lipid metabolism. Liquid sugar calories are the biggest contributors to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

  7. Increase the amount of fibre in your diet. Foods high in fibre: Fruits, vegetables, beans (when tolerated), nuts seeds like flax seeds act like a scrub brush as they move through our GI tract and bind to toxins for removal in our stool. bottom line we need to support better detoxification.

  8. Eat Leafy Greens. Just do it. The nutrients (vitamins and minerals) contained in these bright delicious foods are the best thing for us. I suggest 4-6 cups daily!

If you are struggling with IBS I see you, I hear you. You have suffered long enough. I suffered for years before I learned what I know today and am here to tell you: You do not need to live with these symptoms daily! There is light at the end of the tunnel. Contact me if you want some support.

Marissa Sylvester, RHN

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