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?
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 can be discovered when you know your current biochemistry via hair tissue mineral analysis. 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). These functional reasons can be corrected through a game plan unique to the individual based on their hair tissue mineral analysis results. In addition, if you’ve had a long term issue with irritable bowel, it may be wise to check with a gastroenterologist to ensure there are no structural problems.
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. A Hair Analysis will help you see your mineral imbalances and heavy metal levels. The results can tell you more about why certain food sensitivities are a problem for you and help to correct the imbalances to improve your tolerance to 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. Yeast and fungus slow down a person’s oxidation rate or metabolic rate. Candida thrives in an alkaline medium. Slow oxidizers run alkaline and more susceptible to candida. In order to resolve candida you must correct the biochemistry.
A key underlying cause of candida is a copper imbalance. Copper is one of the body’s main ways to kill yeast. When copper is unavailable to the body for use, the body can’t get rid of the yeasts properly.
If someone has low zinc or a copper imbalance they can do all the candida diets or cleanses under the sun, but never truly correct the core underlying imbalance with candida in their body. Balancing the body’s biochemistry through a hair analysis game plan can correct chronic issues with candida without the need for a specific anti-candida remedy or cleanse. This is a much gentler approach in my opinion and a better long term solution.
Note from Katie: Here’s my story of discovering and battling candida. 2016 update to my story.
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.
2015 UPDATE: we now have an interview about adrenal health with Lydia, our contributing writer Bethany, and myself (Katie). Don’t miss it!!
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it covers the most common issues I see in my practice and with my Hair Analysis you can find your course of action.
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 started Divine Health From the Inside Out to log her journey with food and evolving food philosophies, along with her own personalized recipes. Along the way shifting over to a more traditional, real foods way of eating and incorporating the most natural, organic, nature intended foods possible. Thus ultimately leading to a more nourishing way of life!
Disclosure: I am an affiliate with Divine Health From the Inside Out, 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.