Digestive Health and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Digestive Health

What is IBS

IBS is a chronic relapsing and lifelong disorder characterised by abdominal pain/discomfort association with defecation and/or change in bowel habit. It impairs a person’s Quality of Life and has a detrimental impact on healthcare systems. It is complex and persistent and the most common Gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, being 50% of GI referrals.

IBS has a wide variety of symptoms; bowel alteration, abdominal pain, bloating, frequency, urgency, lethargy, dyspepsia, backache, flatulence, all in the absence of demonstrable pathology, with long term co-morbidities such as insomnia, anxiety, and lethargy.

Effective treatment involves understanding the individual from a holistic perspective and utilising an individual approach.

Digestive Health and IBS

Western Medicine

Western Medicine Therapies are currently aimed at symptom control, improving the bowel function, but do not specifically address the actual pain or discomfort.

Diagnostics in Western Medicine

Diagnostic investigations include colonoscopy to identify indication of any inflammatory disease, faecal occult of blood to detect for abnormalities which can be seen in colorectal cancer, and a stool test for indication of parasite infections.

Treatments in Western Medicine

Medications used to treat IBS can cause further discomfort to people already suffering with symptoms, for example …

  • Laxatives can cause side effects of bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhoea, nausea, thirst, burping, rectal irritation. Complications can include dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, reduced normal bowel motility, loss of muscle and nerve response.
  • Antispasmodics can cause side effects of heartburn, constipation, dry mouth, dizziness, bloating, headache, nausea or vomiting, loss of memory, difficulty passing urine. Complications can include liver damage and inflammation, low blood pressure, slow heart rate, hallucinations, decreased blood platelets.
  • Anti-Depressants can cause side effects of diarrhoea, constipation, anxiety, feeling shaky, loss of appetite, dizziness, headaches, insomnia, dry mouth, fatigue, weight gain, panic attacks. Complications can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviour risks.

*It is always important to discuss with your GP or specialist if you want to stop any of your medications, in particular anti-depressants, as doses may need to be reduced over a period of time before  discontinuing.



Naturopathic medicine aims to understand the mechanisms of IBS by addressing the root cause. The Gastrointestinal tract (GIT) microflora plays an important role in health as it stimulates the immune system, enhances GIT motility and function, digestion and nutrient absorption. It is reported that diet, medications and stress can affect the composition of the microbiota, as have broad-spectrum antibiotics which have been shown to negatively impact the gut microbiota.

Diagnostics biopsies for people with IBS do not show inflammation, however, inflammatory markers will suggest if low grade inflammation is present, a possible indicator of acute gastrointestinal infections such as viral and bacterial, which have been reported as a cause for the onset of IBS symptoms.

Functional Tests

  • A lactose breath test tests for Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). It is a non-invasive test where individuals drink a mixture of glucose and water and the test measures the amount of hydrogen or methane the person breathes out.
  • Microflora deficiencies, food reactions, coeliac testing and IgE/IgG testing can be detected through comprehensive stool assessments.
  • Microbiome-based diagnostics help to decipher what a healthy microbiome constitutes of, thereby testing microflora deficiencies in those with GIT functional disorders.

What To Do

Know your triggers – Keep a diary by making a note of food you eat each day and your symptoms.

Manage your environment – Be aware of stressful situations which may increase your symptom activity and reduce these as much as possible.

Seek advice – We often don’t see the triggers in our daily lives, speaking with professionals specialised in these areas will help to determine the root cause for your symptoms.

Digestive Health – Balance and support your digestive system to maintain overall health through nutrition and lifestyle.

Check your inflammatory markers (CRP) – Health 4 U offers Point of Care Testing, where you get your results in 3 minutes.


If you have any questions or concerns, or would just like further information about how IBS or gut health can affect your overall wellbeing, don’t hesitate to reach out and get in touch with us here at Health 4 U. Or you can also book an appointment with Sinead through our online booking platform, and together we will help you understand and take control of your digestive health.

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