This is a guest post from Lydia Shatney of Divine Health from the Inside Out. I asked her to write a little something because my husband has Crohn’s Disease, and I’m often asked for more information about which I am usually woefully inexperienced.
Do you wonder if something is “off” with your gut? Do you experience stomach pain after eating or other awkward symptoms?
image source: purchased from istock
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder seen by doctors. Studies show that worldwide rates range from 9–23% and U.S rates generally in the area of 10–15%. There are between 2.4 and 3.5 million annual physician visits for IBS in the United States alone. However, a much smaller percent of the adult population has actually been diagnosed with the condition (about 5-7%). IBS is more common in women than it is in men.
I make note of these basic statistics regarding IBS because it is a functional disorder of the GI tract that covers a broad scope of symptoms. IBS is often what doctors diagnose when they don’t know what else to call someone’s irregular bowel habits that don’t involve a structural component.
If you have inconsistencies with your daily bowel movements along with gut pain or discomfort, especially stomach pain after eating, you may have come to the conclusion on your own that you have IBS, or that something is clearly not working right.
But what’s regular? With the list below you can pinpoint common irregular bowel habits that people with IBS, colitis, Crohn’s tend to have. It also includes symptoms related to dysfunction of the small intestines and large intestines.
Note: Crohn’s Disease and colitis are both classified as intestinal bowel disease, not “irritable bowel syndrome/IBS,” but in the end, if nutrition is going to help heal your gut, it’s all just semantics. I (Katie) just thought you should understand that difference if you’re talking to a doctor or looking up issues online.
Common Irregular Bowel Habits & Symptoms
First let me explain what I mean by irregular bowels. I’m referring to not only how the bowel movements come out but also symptoms in the gut that go along with the bowel movements.
Irregular bowels could be demonstrated by the frequency or infrequency, the shape size, color, smell, whether you strain or whether you have to run to the toilet, or maybe wipe a lot once you are done eliminating. It could be that you go once per day every day then one week you skip every other day or go numerous times a day – in other words you have no set normal pattern, it’s always changing.
See if you recognize any of these symptoms as your own:
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- Stools hard or difficult to pass
- Less than one bowel movement per day
- Stools have corners or edges, are flat or ribbon shaped
- Stools are not well formed, but loose instead
- Mucus in the stool
- Blood in the stool
- Food allergies
- Abdominal bloating 1 to 2 hours after eating
- Specific foods make you tired or bloated
- Pulse speeds after eating
- Anus itches
- Coated tongue
- Fungus or yeast infections
- Yeast symptoms increase with sugar, starch or alcohol
- History of parasites
- Excessive foul smelling lower bowel gas
- Cramping in lower abdominal region
- Bad breath or strong body odors
How are all these symptoms of irregular gut function possibly related?
There are five core reasons for gut pain and irregularity, and they create the structure for Heal Your Gut, the course I’ve designed to help people reverse their symptoms. I find the majority of people with gut discomfort are suffering due to functional reasons (how something works) vs. structural issues (how the pieces are put together or may be broken). Regardless, it’s always wise to check with a gastroenterol0gist to ensure there are no structural problems.
Note from Katie: I have listened to most of the lessons from Heal Your Gut myself, and they’re quite fascinating. I learned a ton about gall bladder health that I wished I had known before my father-in-law had his removed a few years ago. I also gained a thorough knowledge of gut health that continues to help our family keep Crohn’s Disease symptoms, which almost always include stomach pain after eating and diarrhea for my husband, from affecting our lives.
5 Reasons You May Have Irregular Bowels
Many people need numerous areas of their health addressed in order to have regular consistent normal bowels on a daily basis, as well as no complaints related to the gut itself. I’d like to suggest 5 core reasons to troubleshoot why you may have irregular bowels.
1. Food Allergies
“It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of us have food sensitivities. Food sensitivity reactions, also called delayed hypersensitivity reactions and in the past called “serum sickness”, occur when IgA, IgG and IgM antibodies are triggered in response to foods, chemicals, and bacterial toxins. The most common antibody reactions are IgG to mold and foods; exposure to molds and foods is quite high compared to pollens. These IgA, IgM and IgG responses are called “delayed” sensitivity reactions because the symptoms they cause can take from several hours to several days to appear, which makes it very difficult to track down the offending food or substance.” (from Digestive Wellness; by Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., CCN, CHN)
Allergies and intolerances are directly associated with the health of the small intestine. Most everyone alive today has several food sensitivities they are not aware of that could be hampering their health. Heal Your Gut will help you learn why food sensitivities often occur, how to test for them and how to eliminate problematic foods.
2. Leaky Gut
Anything that can overstimulate the pores in the lining of the small intestine and keep them open too long is said to cause leaky gut. Examples may include food allergies, alcoholism, Celiac Disease, certain drugs, Giardia and other parasites, intensive illnesses, malnutrition, pancreatitis and many more. This in turn leads to symptoms related to IBS, Crohn’s or colitis.
Did you know that 1/3 of the world’s population is affected by candidiasis?
Candida is a fungal infection, and is a type of fungi that belongs to the yeast family which is why it is commonly called a yeast infection. Candida is found in most everyone and in small amounts should still allow a person to be in good health. It is a yeast found in our guts and in the vagina as well. Normally, it is controlled by good microbes and causes no complications.
However, candida can grow and get out of hand if one creates the right environment, like after a round of antibiotics or while on the birth control pill. Take this Candida Questionnaire if you feel candida is an issue you need to tackle. Note from Katie: Here’s my story of discovering and battling candida.
Parasites are very persistent and can linger for a long time, they can also hide quite well and learn to become resistant to antibiotic treatment. Their presence can further contribute to ill health.
The symptoms of parasites can present like any other digestive problem, such as chronic diarrhea, pain, constipation, bloating, gas, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, abdominal cramping, bloody stools, irritable bowel syndrome and more. They may play a role in some cases of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The symptoms come and go cyclically due to the life cycle of whatever parasite may be involved. If you see a cyclical pattern of digestive complaints you can suspect parasites. Take heart, a parasite ‘cleanse’ can rid you of these pesky buggers if you are persistent enough. Note from Katie: We’ve got info here on parasites, too.
5. Stress & Tired Adrenals
Chronic stress raises the adrenal hormone, cortisol, which degrades the gut lining and contributes to leaky gut.
The stress response, also known as ‘fight or flight’, is meant to be short-lived. However, people in modern day society do not get a chance to recover from stress or rebuild their tired adrenals. Excess stimulation of the adrenal glands from stress causes blood flow to the digestive tract to decrease.
Stress causes one to be in sympathetic mode, vs. parasympathetic mode — the state the body needs to be in to actually digest food. When was the last time you ate in a relaxed state? When was the last time you did not have stress, anxiety or worries in your life? The majority of us are suffering from poor digestive health ailments due to this one issue alone. Note from Katie: Nope, nothing about adrenals at KS…but sometimes I wonder if it will only be a matter of time…
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it covers the most common issues I see in my practice and with my Heal Your Gut course participants. Whether you have been diagnosed with something like, colitis, IBS, Crohns or just wonder about your gut discomfort and bowel irregularity, addressing these 5 issues will go a long way towards recovery.
The Heal Your Gut course is currently in open enrollment. Lessons for this session, which include private Q&A with Lydia via a Facebook group or email, begin March 5th.
Please note that I am not a licensed medical professional. I do not diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness or health issue. The information or advice provided here should not be construed as medical advice. If you choose to use any of the natural remedies or advice discussed here, you will be taking responsibility for your own health and wellness.
Lydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health From The Inside Out in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. Sign up for the Divine Health From The Inside Out newsletter! Pick up a copy of Lydia’s eBook; ‘Divine Dinners: Gluten-Free, Nourishing, Family-Friendly Meals’.
Lydia offers specialized step by step counseling to transform your health. Personalized consultations to suit your specific needs are offered via phone or in person. Lydia offers a variety of packages offered to suit your individual needs. Lydia also offers 3 online courses: Heal Your Gut, Revitalize Your Health and A Calm Mind. Contact Lydia today to get started as well as to learn more about what she has to offer you!
Disclosure: I am an affiliate with Lydia’s ecourse and ebook, and I will earn a small commission if you make a purchase, but it doesn’t change your price at all. My hope is that this post gave you some food for thought and someplace to start in troubleshooting your own stomach pains, whether you’re interested in the full course or not.