I was one of them. Plagued by digestive issues for the greater part of my teenage years, as well as my 20’s and 30’s, I sought to find the answer to something that Western medicine did not believe to be curable. After twenty plus rounds of antibiotics as a teenager, my gut was a mess, and it took me the greater part of two decades to finally heal it. Unfortunately, there are still too many people suffering from IBS.
I mean, one out of seven people is about 1.7 billion people worldwide…that’s a lot, isn’t it? And it’s really grown in the last two decades. What explains the high prevalence of this digestive disease?
What We’re Getting Wrong About IBS
And here’s where the problem gets even deeper: The medical community uses “IBS” as an umbrella diagnosis, which means a person is diagnosed with it when they experience chronic gastrointestinal symptoms without a clear structural or functional reason. Conventional medicine diagnoses IBS using the Rome Criteria, which have defined IBS as:
- related to bowel movements
- associated with a change in the frequency of stools
- associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool
And these criteria must be fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months before diagnosis.”
If you think this sounds pretty broad, that’s because it is. If you have digestive issues but your doctor can’t immediately figure out why, or diagnose you with a known issue like Crohn’s, then they label you as having “IBS.” You’ll notice that the definition above has everything to do with the symptoms you experience and how frequently you experience them — it has nothing to do with the actual underlying cause of the issue or even the specific symptoms themselves. And because we don’t understand the underlying cause, there is currently no diagnostic test for IBS. After all, what would you test for if you don’t know what to look for? The only tests they run are to rule out other conditions.
If you’re like me, you’ll read the section above and ask yourself: There must be a better way, right? Actually, there is. Keep reading to learn about the HAPPY GUT® ‘blueprint’ — my approach to irritable bowel syndrome.
The HAPPY GUT® Approach to IBS
This is exactly what I did in my book Happy Gut and it’s what I’m going to teach you to do today. If you want to tame IBS, you need to zoom out and look at the gut as a whole, then zoom back in and look at that secret world inside you — your gut microbiome.
The 3 Components of a Healthy Gut
For a healthy, happy gut, we have to look at these three key components:
1. The Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome is the community of at least 100 trillion bacteria living mainly in your large intestine. The vast majority of these bacteria are good; in fact, humans have evolved alongside these microbes to the point where we’ve developed a very symbiotic relationship with them. For example, the good bacteria in our gut feed off the foods we eat and in turn, they help us by making vitamins, short-chain fatty acids, and neurotransmitters like serotonin — a chemical that makes us feel happy. They also help us absorb and break down nutrients and regulate our immune system. And they do this while crowding out bad bugs from overgrowing in the gut.
Pretty great, right?
Unfortunately, a combination of a low-fiber, high-sugar diet, stress, medications, antibiotics, lack of exercise, and environmental factors can sabotage the delicate balance of bacteria in our guts and by doing so, it creates damaging ripple effects throughout the entire body, affecting our health.
If you have IBS, you almost definitely have an imbalance in gut bacteria. In fact, studies have shown that 73% of IBS patients have dysbiosis (an imbalance between good and bad bugs, tipped in the favor of the bad). A large chunk of people also develop IBS after an infection of pathogenic bacteria like E. Coli, Salmonella, or Campylobacter jejuni, which disrupt the balance. According to new research, these pathogenic bacteria can produce toxins called cytolethal distending toxins (CDTs for short), which seem to play a major role in IBS that we haven’t been aware of until now. In fact, CDT’s can trigger an immune response in the gut, including antibodies to the very proteins that hold gut cells together, possibly triggering an autoimmune attack. This new information suggests that for some people, chronic IBS may actually be an autoimmune condition.
The bottom line:
Addressing microbiome imbalances is an absolutely critical part of tackling the underlying causes of your gut distress.
2. The Gut Lining
Your gut lining is another important element of healthy digestion. This one-cell-layer-thick lining is responsible for absorbing nutrients and keeping other harmful things — like large, partially-digested food particles, toxins, and pathogenic microbes — out of the bloodstream where they can wreak havoc by triggering an immune response that leads to inflammation. Unfortunately, an imbalance in the gut microbiome can lead to a breakdown in tight junction proteins — which are like the security guards who decide what passes through and what stays out. This can lead to a leaky gut, which allows food particles, microbes, and microbial toxins (like endotoxin) to slip through the gut lining and causes inflammation, food allergies and sensitivities, and all types of digestive symptoms.
New research on CDTs (I mentioned above) has shown that these toxins can also cause increased permeability in the gut lining. But here’s the interesting part: CDTs can cause leaky gut without actually harming the tight junction proteins, which means they cause a new, sneaky type of leaky gut. There’s even a new line of research exploring whether these CDTs can bind to the body’s proteins and cause the immune system to attack itself. This means that in the near future, IBS might be described as an autoimmune issue. This is a totally new way to look at what actually causes the disease. The new things we’re learning about CDTs mean that we’re also one big step closer to developing a simple test for this subset of IBS.
The bottom line:
We’re learning more every day about how digestion and the immune system is impacted by leaky gut, including new mechanisms by which leaky gut can exist. Healing leaky gut is a key component of healing the root causes of IBS.
3. The Whole Gut
As you’re probably already sensing from reading the first two components of a healthy and happy gut, the gut is an amazingly complex part of the body. It’s no wonder so much can go wrong with it! Understanding IBS requires us to zoom out and look at the full picture of the gut and all its many mechanisms. In order for you to digest properly, your gut has to move at a pace that allows you to have regular bowel movements, which require plenty of water and fiber in your diet. You also have to produce bile salts to emulsify and absorb fats, as well as adequate amounts of digestive enzymes, which are produced by both your pancreas and the cells that line the gut lining, and adequate stomach acid to break down the foods you eat. This is something that can easily get interrupted by a stressful day (stress has been linked to decreased HCL production). If you’ve ever had stomach ache after a stressful meal, you’ve experienced this connection first hand!
The other thing that’s consistently underestimated are the wide-ranging effects of IBS, which can impact so many other areas of your life — like your concentration, mood, and energy levels. The gut is the cornerstone of your health; it impacts your immune system, the production of your brain’s “happy chemicals” and can either help or hurt your metabolism and energy levels.
The bottom line:
When looking at IBS, you have to consider how it affects the body as a whole. Start by supporting the functioning of the digestive system as a whole, from enzyme production to the rhythmic contractions of the intestines.
5 Steps to Beat the Bloat, Improve Mental Clarity, and Boost Energy
So how do I do it? I follow…
The 5 Steps of the HAPPY GUT®
The good news is I’ve simplified all of this into one program that has helped thousands of people conquer their gut and gut-related health issues for good — my HAPPY GUT® REBOOT: 28-Day Cleanse. This program is based on the Blueprint above. In just 28 days, you can complete the 5 steps to heal your IBS by working on the root causes to free yourself from chronic medications that only treat symptoms.
Here’s what people have to say about it:
However, I am pleased to say that after following your diet in the book for a couple of months i am feeling much much better. My digestive system is better than it has been in years. The pain seems to have gone as well. My energy is improving as well.”
Instead of putting a BAND-AID over the issue, the HAPPY GUT® REBOOT: 28-Day Cleanse focuses on restoring all three components of a healthy gut so that you can stop thinking and worrying about your digestion once and for all. Not to mention, when you heal your gut, so many other things get better, like inflammation, brain fog, and fatigue.