If you suffer with IBS, then you know how frustrating this health condition can be. Odds are (since you’re reading this) you have been searching for better
solutions to this chronic health condition. Today I want to introduce you to what I call “The Big 3”…these are the 3 major systems that must be assessed and addressed if you suffer with IBS.
If you have seen a gastroenterologist, you probably didn’t get much help or guidance for your condition. I don’t say this as a slam or attack on that specialty; it’s just a fact. IBS is a functional disorder of the bowels and restoring normal function of the digestive tract is not your gastroenterologist’s specialty. I have yet to see a patient walk into my office that has had their IBS evaluated from a functional perspective by their gastroenterologist. Most of the patients at my Naperville office have been told by their doctor to drink more water, take fiber/laxatives or try a probiotic. In most cases, IBS sufferers require more specific and comprehensive solutions than fiber or a probiotic.
IBS is a health issue that tends to respond well to a functional medicine approach. This is because IBS generally stems from one or more of what I call “The Big 3.” To properly assess and manage The Big 3, you may need the help of a functional medicine doctor.
What are The Big 3?
The Big 3 are the 3 major regulatory systems of the body:
- Nervous system
- Immune system
- Endocrine system
In my experience, IBS sufferers have imbalances and compromised functions of one or all of the Big 3. The nervous system includes your brain and the nervous system of your digestive tract is called the enteric nervous system. There are also other nerves involved like the vagus nerve but let’s not get bogged down in terminology. Your nervous system is a major regulatory system of your body; arguably the most important. Then you have the immune system; most of which if located in and around the digestive tract. Most diets used to manage IBS are targeting the immune system one way or another. Finally, we have the endocrine system; this is your hormone system and includes cortisol from your adrenal glands and other hormones such as thyroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. I would also like to make the point that you can’t have imbalances in only one of these system. This is because they all influence one another. By improving any 1 of them the other 2 improve and by the same token, damage to any one of them pulls the other two down.
They are like the sides of a triangle; all connected and each side influencing the shape and balance of the whole.
Why The Big 3?
Why would anyone want to focus on The Big 3? Well, what else would you focus on? IBS is a functional disorder; that means the problem is due to a lack regulation and normal function. The 3 major regulatory system are the nervous system, immune system and hormonal system.
Let’s look at 3 examples to get this point across:
Nervous system: stress can make IBS worse and the only way we can perceive stress is through our nervous system. The negative effects of stress originate from the nervous system. This system includes neurotransmitter imbalances in the gut and brain. Many with IBS also suffer with anxiety or depression…again nervous system.
Immune System: most of your immune system is located in and around your digestive tract. Your immune system is also a major source of inflammation. Some people with IBS respond favorably to diet changes and diet changes have a significant impact on the immune system. This is where testing food allergies or food sensitivities can be very helpful. Probiotics also impact the immune system.
Endocrine System (hormones): many IBS suffers notice their symptoms are worse during different times of the month (menstrual cycle) or when going on or off of hormonal birth control. It is common to see IBS develop in teenage girls when they begin to have menstrual cycles and during perimenopause and after menopause…again hormones shifts.
I could just keep going here making connections between The Big 3 and IBS but I think you get the point.
You really need to take 3 specialties and roll them into one…neurology, immunology, and endocrinology to appreciate the complexity of IBS.
I hope this perspective on IBS has given you a greater appreciation for what you are dealing with. Nobody expects you to sort this out on your own. We are functional medicine office located in Illinois and we are passionate about helping others restore normal digestive function.
If you have tried to manage IBS on your own, but not seeing the improvement you had hoped for, it might be time to get some help. The functional medicine approach just might have the missing pieces you have been looking for.
I wish you success in your quest for better health!
If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to www.napervilleintegratedwellness.com
Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.
This approach to healthcare is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Why? The FDA enforces its position that these words can only be used with drugs. This approach does not use drugs.