Breaking Down IBS: From Symptoms to Solutions

Breaking Down IBS: From Symptoms to Solutions

Despite being a common condition, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is often surrounded by confusion and misunderstandings. If you’re reading this, you’re probably all too familiar with the discomfort and disruptions it can bring (like bloating, gas, or changes in bowel habits). In this article, we’ll help demystify IBS, helping you understand its types, causes, and the best ways to manage it effectively. 

Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the large intestine, bringing a variety of uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. These symptoms can come and go over time, often flaring up during stress or after eating certain foods. And if you’re currently dealing with IBS, you’re far from alone—10-15% of people worldwide share this experience, with many more unaware of their condition.

There are three types, each defined by the symptoms most commonly present.

IBS with Constipation (IBS-C): As the name suggests, this type is characterized by constipation. You may notice fewer bowel movements, hard or lumpy stools, and a feeling that you haven’t fully emptied your bowels. Managing this type of IBS involves dietary changes, increased water intake, and physical activity to kickstart digestion.

IBS-D with Diarrhea (IBS-D): IBS-D is marked by frequent, loose, or watery stools. People with this type often experience an urgent need to have a bowel movement, which can be unpredictable and may disrupt daily activities. It might even cause anxiety about locating restrooms when out of the house. Dietary management for IBS-D includes avoiding triggers like caffeine and spicy and fatty foods and instead focusing on incorporating more fiber into your diet.

Mixed IBS (IBS-M): IBS-M is a combination of both constipation and diarrhea. If your bowel habits vary from day to day, swinging from constipation to diarrhea, this might be your type.

What Causes IBS?

The exact cause of IBS remains unclear. It likely results from a combination of several different factors that disrupt the gut-brain connection.

These factors may include:

  • Yeast overgrowth
  • Muscle contractions in the intestine
  • Nervous system irregularities
  • Inflammation
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Food allergies
  • Pesticides
  • Medications (NSAIDs, aspirin, acetaminophen)
  • Bacterial infections in the digestive tract
  • Food intolerance or sensitivities
  • Genetics
  • Stressful or traumatic early life events 
  • Medical conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or somatic symptom disorder

What Factors Influence IBS Symptoms?

By understanding the factors that influence IBS symptoms, you can take proactive steps to manage your condition more effectively. 

Yeast Overgrowth

Yeast, a type of fungus, naturally lives in our bodies, especially in the warm, moist areas like the gut. In a balanced system, yeast supports healthy digestion and nutrient absorption. But when yeast like Candida albicans overpopulate, they inflame the lining of your intestines. This inflammation can impair the gut’s ability to function properly, leading to the common, unwanted symptoms of IBS. Additionally, a yeast overgrowth can produce byproducts like acetaldehyde, which can further disrupt your digestive enzymes. This overgrowth can be triggered by a variety of factors, including diets high in sugar and refined carbs, excessive stress, or the use of antibiotics that reduce beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Poor Diet

What you eat profoundly impacts how you feel. Foods that are highly processed, fatty, or loaded with spices are harmful. The high fructose corn syrup and various preservatives found in processed foods can disrupt the delicate balance of your gut flora. 

Additionally, the speed at which food moves through your gut (gut motility) plays a critical role. High-fat foods can slow down digestion, leading to constipation for some, and diarrhea for others due to the release of water and electrolytes.

High Stress

Stress sends your body into ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a wave of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This surge can unsettle your digestive system, resulting in symptoms such as cramping, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. Stress also disrupts the communication between your brain and gut, increasing gut sensitivity and reactivity.


Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and antibiotics might irritate the gut lining and amplify your symptoms.

Hormonal Changes

For many women, fluctuations during the menstrual cycle can profoundly influence IBS symptoms. As estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall, they can slow gut motility or speed it up, leading to constipation or diarrhea.

Nutrient Deficiencies

The intestines are the body’s hub for absorbing nutrients from food, but IBS compromises this function:

  • IBS affects how quickly or slowly food moves through your intestines. With IBS-D, food may pass too rapidly, leaving little time for nutrient absorption, whereas slow movement in IBS-C (IBS with constipation) can lead to nutrient imbalances.
  • Dysbiosis is a fancy term for an imbalance in your gut bacteria. An imbalance reduces nutrient uptake and even affects natural vitamin production in your gut.

Managing IBS: Nutrients You Need to Know

Your body thrives when it gets the right blend of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. From muscle contractions to nerve signal transmissions, these nutrients drive the essential functions for a healthy digestive system.


Fiber, a carbohydrate your body can’t digest, is a powerhouse for digestive health. You can find it in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

  • Fiber absorbs water, increasing stool bulk and softening it, which helps ease the passage and reduces the discomfort often associated with IBS.
  • By easing digestion, fiber reduces bloating and gas, leading to fewer IBS flare-ups.

Fiber comes in two main types, each beneficial for different symptoms:

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, transforming into a gel-like substance in your gut. It helps by slowing digestion, which is perfect for those managing IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D). This slow digestion process helps manage the urgent, frequent bowel movements.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve; it adds bulk to your stool and speeds up food movement, aiding those with constipation-predominant IBS. 

Soil-based Probiotics

Soil-based probiotics, or SBOs (Soil-Based Organisms), are beneficial bacteria naturally occurring in the soil. They can survive the harsh, acidic stomach environment, reaching your intestines to deliver benefits such as: 

  • Strengthen gut lining: A weakened gut barrier becomes more permeable, allowing substances that usually wouldn’t pass through to enter the bloodstream and worsen IBS symptoms.
  • Promote balanced gut flora: SBOs compete with harmful bacteria, reducing inflammation and infection risks, which are common issues for IBS sufferers. 
  • Ease Digestion: Soil-based probiotics break down complex food particles, smoothing digestion and easing IBS symptoms like cramping and irregular bowel movements.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

As essential fats your body cannot produce, omega-3s must come from your diet or high-quality supplements. 

Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in prostaglandin production, molecules that soothe your digestive tract’s irritation and inflammation. Research shows that when those with IBS increase their omega-3 intake, they often report less abdominal pain, fewer digestive problems, and smoother digestion.


The muscles lining your digestive tract are essential for moving food through your system. This process, known as peristalsis, relies heavily on magnesium. Magnesium helps drive these muscle contractions, so a deficiency can lead to muscle spasms that result in common digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea.

Think of magnesium as a natural muscle relaxer. It works by drawing water into the intestines, softening the stool, and making it easier to pass. On the flip side, if you’re experiencing diarrhea, magnesium can help add bulk and allow more water to be absorbed, making the stool firmer.

Vitamin D 

IBS is often linked to inflammation caused by an immune response. Vitamin D’s role in immune regulation might help reduce inflammation and ease symptoms like stomach pain and discomfort. What’s more, Vitamin D receptors throughout the gut help manage the growth and repair of the gut lining, which is crucial for IBS management.

Smart Strategies for IBS Management

Discover Your Triggers

Navigating IBS is a lot easier when you know which foods to avoid. Start a food diary to track what you eat and how it affects your symptoms. Over time, you’ll see patterns that can guide your dietary choices.

Here are common problem foods you may want to steer clear of:

  • Lactose and gluten: Some individuals find that lactose and gluten trigger their IBS—experiment with reducing these in your diet to observe any positive changes.
  • Fried and fatty foods: These can be hard to digest and may worsen symptoms. Opting for grilled, baked, or steamed dishes can help.
  • Caffeinated drinks and alcohol can also stimulate the gut and worsen symptoms.

Opt for IBS-friendly Foods

While eliminating triggers is vital, knowing what to include in your diet is just as important. Foods that benefit your digestive health include:

  • High-fiber foods: Fiber helps keep the digestive system flowing. 
  • A low FODMAP diet involves limiting foods high in certain fermentable carbohydrates. Low-FODMAP foods include nutritious veggies like carrots, spinach, and zucchini.
  • Gluten-free grains, such as rice and quinoa.
  • Probiotic-rich foods: Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha are excellent probiotic sources.

Gradually Increase Fiber

If constipation is a frequent issue, slowly increasing your fiber intake may help. Start with small amounts of soluble fiber from foods like oats and seeds. But if diarrhea is more common, you should limit high-fiber sources. Listen to your body and adjust your diet as needed.

Consider Supplements

Finding the right balance of supplements may also ease your symptoms. An IBS-friendly supplement protocol might include:

  • Soil-based probiotics to help balance gut bacteria and create a healthier environment, potentially reducing IBS symptoms like bloating and irregularity.
  • A multi-mineral supplement to ensure your body has the nutrients it needs to drive essential cellular functions, which are compromised in IBS.
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids derived from algae oil for their anti-inflammatory properties, which may soothe the digestive tract and promote healing.

  • A pico-meter silver formula to disrupt harmful bacteria and other pathogens and restore your gut flora. This is particularly relevant for IBS sufferers because the condition is often associated with an imbalance in the gut’s bacterial environment.

Time Your Meals

Adjusting when and how you eat may be necessary. You might find it easier on your stomach to have smaller, more frequent meals rather than the traditional three large ones a day. This approach can keep your digestion running smoothly and prevent the discomfort of an overly full or empty stomach.

Stay Hydrated

Mineralized water is your best friend when managing IBS. It keeps your digestive system flowing and can help alleviate constipation and bloating. To boost the benefits, add a multi-mineral formula to your water. Minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium are crucial for muscle function and nerve signaling, helping to reduce abdominal discomfort and improve bowel movements.

Get Moving

You don’t need to run marathons—a simple 15-30-minute walk each day can significantly improve your bowel function and reduce IBS flare-ups. Activities like cycling and yoga are also great options. The key is consistency—find an activity you enjoy and stick with it.

Take Action

Let’s start your journey to a more comfortable and controlled life with IBS. By leveraging the strategies and support provided here, you can begin to take steps to maintain a higher quality of life and minimize the impact of IBS on your daily activities and quality of life.