IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, with diarrhea does not have one, distinct cause. Symptoms may follow a bad infection or heavy antibiotic use. However, IBS is mainly caused by diet and lifestyle.
The diet that leads to this type of bowel pattern produces deficiencies in minerals, which further exacerbate the problem. Having IBS with diarrhea gradually weakens the walls of the intestines, leading to a tendency to spasm. Individuals with IBS are a subset of the population particularly sensitive to muscle contractions in their colon and feel them more painfully than people without IBS.
One of the main causes of IBS with diarrhea is abnormal gut flora. In fact, the health of your bowel ecosystem is the key to the health of your whole body. When you don’t have enough beneficial bacteria in your colon, bad bacteria and fungus proliferate, contributing to digestive problems. The good bacteria in our bowels thrive on fat and are poisoned by simple sugars. Bad bacteria are fed primarily with flour and sugar. Eliminating these items from the diet will go a long way in healing your IBS.
You must support and replenish your gut bacteria by taking probiotics and eating fermented foods, which contain trillions of good bacteria. For more information and recommended probiotics, read my article Probiotics–The Foundation of Health. An amazing book to read on this subject is Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Campbell-McBride. This book will change your life.
The diet for IBS should include high amounts of fermented foods (which contribute to beneficial flora in the intestines), use of bitter vegetables and herbs (which stimulate the bile and therefore aid in the digestion of fats) and liberal consumption of foods rich in vitamin D such as butter, meats and fish, and getting ten minutes of direct sunshine every day (vitamin D is very important for the health of the colon).
As an IBS sufferer, you are likely gluten intolerant. It is best to avoid gluten (wheat, barley, rye and some oats) and may be advised to avoid all grains. At the very least, eliminate gluten and/or all grains for two months, and then reintroduce them to see if they cause symptoms. You can see how to do a food elimination diet in my article Food Sensitivities Make you Sick and Fat.
If you do eat grains, they must be properly prepared with soaking and fermenting. High fiber foods that have not been prepared correctly can be very irritating and can actually damage the villi in the small intestine, leading to poor absorption. It seems, therefore, that the key is not solely the fiber content (which is why adding Metamucil, a source of insoluble fiber to the normal American diet is a poor solution) but the whole diet, including preparation methods. Unfermented grains contain chemicals that irritate and inflame the bowel wall, and can even cause it to spasm. Oats, rice and other grains should be soaked overnight for 24 hours to release acids like phytic acid. Phytic acid is problematic to the colon and is an anti-nutrient, leaching nutrients from the body, especially minerals.
IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, does not have one, distinct cause. Since symptoms vary, it’s likely that several factors below play a role in the development of this condition.
- Abnormal Gut Flora
- Food Sensitivities
- Lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking alcohol
- Heavy metal and chemical toxicity
- Hormonal changes
- Feelings such as anger, fear, depression, and anxiety
- Changes in nerves that control bowel
- Person can be more sensitive to changes in stretching of colon caused by gas and digestion
Use trial and error to find your IBS triggers. Common triggers include:
- Some fruits and veggies
- Greasy food
- Carbonated drinks
- Sugar free gums and candy (sorbitol)
You can heal from IBS, but it will take at least six months of strictly following the recommendations below to heal your digestive tract.
- Drink WATER. This is the best healing elixir in the universe. You need to drink three liters a day. Many times I have clients with IBS who are drinking coffee or soda all day long. Caffeine causes you to lose the water you drank in the beverage, plus a little more. This will cause you to be dehydrated and not have enough water to go to the bathroom! Not surprising. Learn why I only recommend drinking pure spring water in my article What Kind of Water Should I Drink?
- Eat a more traditional diet as outlined in my Modern Paleo Diet.
- Eat and chew more slowly to aid digestion. Try to chew each bite at least 25 times. Allow the digestive enzymes in your mouth to do their job and begin the job of breaking down food.
- Whole, natural foods are easier to digest than processed foods. Processed foods absolutely contribute to IBS.
- Eat bone, fish, and meat broths. These provide l-glutamine, the main amino acid building blocks for the cells lining the gut. Bone broths have a soothing effect on gut inflammation. The specific amino acids in soup broth act as a kind of tonic for the bowel wall, by providing compounds that function like antidepressants. Do not use commercial stocks or bullion cubes. They do not heal the gut, are highly processed, and full of harmful additives. Just throw your bones, joints, meat, celery, carrots, turnips, onion, leeks, whatever vegetables you like, herbs like parsley, dill, and thyme, head of garlic, sea salt and pepper in a pot for two to four hours. So easy! For directions, see my recipe and video on how to make Bone Broth.
- Add more green, leafy and sweet root veggies to your diet.
- Eat balanced meals: 1/4 plate complex carbs, 1/4 plate protein, 1/2 plate veggies.
- All vegetables should be cooked when healing yourself from IBS. Raw vegetables are much harder to digest. When you are healed, you can integrate raw vegetables.
- Eat Blueberries. Blueberries are rich in anthocyanosides, which have antioxidant and antibacterial properties, as well as tannins, which combat diarrhea.
- Healing foods for IBS: almonds, persimmon, flaxseed, melon, and cilantro.
- Eat fermented foods and live cultures for probiotics. Eat sauerkraut, the juice of sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables, kefir, kvass, kombucha, yogurt (if tolerated), kim chee, etc.
- Drink hot water every 10 minutes for two weeks, but do this when you’re not having an attack. This will clear your lymphatic system and allow it drain properly. It must be plain hot water. Repeat as needed. The lymphatic system aids the immune system in removing and destroying waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, toxins, and cancer cells. The first place the lymph system becomes clogged is the drain from the intestines into the lymph system. It must be kept clear to do its job.
- Before bed, use 1/2-1 teaspoon Swedish Bitters in warm water. This will help stimulate bile and aid in digestion.
- Replace electrolytes: Drink coconut water, broth and soups, fresh vegetable juices. For more info on how to make fresh vegetable juice, see my article The Juice on Juicing.
- Drink tea. Chamomile (antispasmodic properties), mint, orange peel, ginger, or herbal tea is good for treating intestinal inflammation. Use packaged tea bags or brew it fresh. Buy chamomile flowers and steep 1 teaspoon of them and 1 teaspoon of peppermint leaves in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Make ginger tea by grating a teaspoon of fresh or frozen ginger root into your teapot of boiling water and leave for 3-5 minutes. The tannins in ordinary black tea have an anti-diarrheal effect. Green tea is also very calming. All tea must be fresh brewed to retain antioxidant properties.
- Keep insulin steady. Avoid big meals and desserts without meals, which skyrocket blood sugar. White foods spike blood sugar, too. High blood sugar will aggravate IBS.
- Do an elimination diet. You need to find foods to which you are allergic and have sensitivities that are causing symptoms. An elimination diet will pinpoint troublesome foods. This usually involves stopping a food for a month or more and then reintroducing it to see if it is triggering symptoms. For more information on how to do an elimination diet, see my article Food Sensitivities.
- Keep a diet and symptom record to target problematic foods.
- Do relaxation daily. Try meditation, yoga, infrared saunas, and deep breathing. Anxiety plays a huge role in IBS.
- Eat foods to which you are sensitive. The only way to find out foods to which you are sensitive is to do an elimination diet. For more information on food sensitivities and how to do an elimination diet, see my article Food Sensitivities.
- Limit or avoid anti-diarrhea medications, as these only address symptoms. Stopping the diarrhea with an over-the-counter medication may not be the best thing for your body, since the diarrhea reflects your body’s attempt to get rid of bacteria or signals irritation. Take them only if in an emergency.
- When you are having an episode of diarrhea and the gut wall is severely inflamed, no amount of fiber can be tolerated. Exclude vegetables from the diet and drink meat stocks and probiotic foods, like sour cream and yogurt, sauerkraut juice, meats, fish, and raw egg yolks (can be added to broth). Do not eat vegetables until the diarrhea has subsided.
- Avoid over-the-counter electrolyte replacement formulas like Pedialyte, Rehydralyte, and Ricelyte. These contain harmful petroleum-based artificial colors and sugar. You don’t need these. Drink natural hydrators like coconut water and meat and fish stocks. These contain the exact same ingredients as Pedialyte and other hydrators without the additives.
- Caffeine strips the lining of the intestines.
- Avoid greasy, fried foods. These cause inflammation.
- White flour strips the lining of the intestines. You should remove gluten from your diet.
- Sugar causes bloating and loose bowels. Sugar, including the sugar in fruit, feeds pathogenetic bacteria in the intestines. While you are healing I would avoid all fruit and sugar to starve any intestinal bacterial overgrowth that is likely contributing to the problem.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, and Sweet n Low. These are also carcinogenic and neurotoxins (kill brain cells) and can trigger symptoms. They cause hundreds of side effects, including migraines. Learn more in my article Deadly Artificial Sweeteners.
- Avoid alcohol sugars like sorbitol or any other sugar ending in -ol. Though it is fine to consume, alcohol sugars can cause diarrhea.
- Avoid too much Vitamin C. While it is good to take if you’re getting a cold, taking too much can cause diarrhea.
- Avoid trans fats. A product contains trans fats if it has shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, fractionated oil, or interesterified fats (worse than trans fats) in the ingredient list. They are in baked goods like bread, cookies, tortillas, crackers, chips, cereals, candy bars, and many processed foods. Avoid bakeries, especially grocery store bakeries, unless they are very high end. Trans fats are in 70% of boxed, processed foods you find in most major grocery stores. Read labels!
- Avoid acidic, tomato-based foods like spaghetti sauce and pizza. These can irritate your intestines.
- Dairy may be troublesome to some people with IBS. People with diarrhea tend to do well with high PROTEIN dairy, like yogurt, whey, kefir, and cheese. Sour cream, high FAT dairy, seems to be well tolerated by people with diarrhea. Milk may cause a problem. Everyone is individual. Experiment. If you do eat diary, it should be organic and preferably raw (found at small health food stores and farmer’s markets). Raw milk products can be completely sterilized with the addition of 1 drop of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide per gallon. However, the enzymes and probiotics in raw dairy kill any bad bacteria that find their way into the milk. Conventional milk does not have this protection since enzymes, probiotics, and vitamins are killed during pasteurization. Learn if dairy is for you in my article Are you the half that should avoid Dairy?
- You may have trouble with beans. Beans are very hard to digest, so it may be wise to avoid them while you are healing .Hummus is made from beans. Experiment. Learn more in my article Think Beans are good for you? Think Again!
- Avoid soy. Soy should be avoided or eaten on rare occasions. If consumed, eat only non-GMO whole soybeans and tofu or fermented soy products like soy sauce, miso, and tempeh. Most people unwittingly eat soy protein isolate or textured soy protein in the form of protein powders, veggie burgers, fake meats, etc. How is soy protein isolate made? After removing the fiber, the beans are put in an aluminum pot with an acid wash. They absorb the aluminum (linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s) and then are treated with many chemicals including nitrates (linked to cancer). This soy protein isolate powder is in up to 60% of processed foods, including soymilk and infant formula. Soy also impairs iodine absorption and reduces thyroid function, which impairs one’s ability to lose weight. It interferes with estrogen receptor sites causing premature menstruation in girls and promoting cancer (many cancers grow when there is an abundance of estrogen or estrogenic substances). Soy can also damage your nervous system by killing brain cells, specifically in the hypothalamus, the area responsible for memory and learning. Additionally, 90% of the world’s soy production is genetically modified. So, if you don’t buy organic, you’re almost certainly consuming soy that is proven to lower immunity, cause infertility, and damage organs in animals. For more information, see my article Little Known Dangers of Soy.
- Avoid MSG. It will stimulate all the glutamate receptors in the intestines causing symptoms. Glutamate receptor sensitivity is increased if you are low in magnesium. This means avoiding fast food, soy products, etc. For more information on how food manufacturers put MSG in all their products and a list of ingredients that contain MSG, see my article Hidden MSG.
- Avoid carrageenan found in many nut milks. It can cause intestinal distress and damage and is carcinogenic. It is also found in regular and organic milk. Read labels. For more information on carrageenan and how to avoid it in products, see Cornucopia Institute’s Guide to Avoiding Carrageenan.
- Antibiotics, blood pressure medications, cancer drugs, antacids containing magnesium, and foods high in magnesium can all cause diarrhea.
- Digestive Enzymes. Digestive Enzymes are key in aiding nutrient absorption, which you are losing if you have chronic diarrhea. I take enzymes before every meal. My favorite is Transformation Carbo-G.
- HCL with pepsin. If your digestive system is off, you may need to supplement with Hydrochloric acid to improve break down of food in the stomach so it doesn’t cause problems down below. Undigested food can cause IBS, food allergies, feeds pathogenic bacteria in the gut contributing to yeast overgrowth, and contribute to leaky gut syndrome. I really like Designs for Health Betain HCL with Pepsin.
- Inflamma GI. Innate Response Inflamma GI is a food-based organic product that contains many different ingredients to calm inflammation in the gut. We need to cool inflammation in the gut.
- Dysbio GI. Innate Response Dysbio GI is an amazing organic food-based formula that is key in eliminating any gut infection you may harbor that is contributing to IBS. This is a great product to take for a couple months to address potential infections. Innate Response Dysbio-GI contains Oregon Grape Extract and Oregano Oil – considered two of the most potent ingredients used to support GI health. Oregon Grape contains the alkaloid berberine‚ widely known to support an already healthy inflammatory response as well as promoting a healthy internal environment for the GI system. The oregano oil‚ standardized to contain 30% carvacrol‚ adds superior support and aids in keeping the highest level of vitality and health throughout the GI tract.
- Manuka Honey. This miracle honey kills foreign pathogens and bad bacteria in the intestines. Take 1-3 teaspoons per day. See my blog on Medicinal Manuka Honey for more information. My favorite Manuka Honey is Manuka Health 400 or 550 MGO strength.
- Turmeric. Turmeric is amazing for inflammation. Curcumin is the extract of turmeric that holds the key to its anti-inflammatory effects. I take Integrative Therapeutics Theracurmin. It utilizes a patented‚ natural colloidal dispersion technology to enhance curcumin’s bioavailability by 27 times the typical preparation of turmeric.
- Bromelain. This enzyme is key for calming Inflammation. Innate Response Proteolytic Enzymes mainly contains Bromelain as well as other systematic enzymes that cool inflammation (and thus pain).
There are a lot of good probiotics, but some are superior. Don’t waste your money on a probiotic that’s less than 10 billion CFU. Many brands do not possess the potency that’s on the label. It’s good to switch to different brands after you’ve finished a bottle to obtain as many different strains of probiotics as possible. You have over 400 different bacteria in your intestines. Diversity is key. For more information, read my blog post Probiotics–The Foundation of Health. I take probiotics every day in different forms and have used all the probiotics I recommend. I rotate all of these probiotic supplements:
- HLC Intensive. HLC Intensive Capsules by Pharmax contain the highest-potency probiotics available in a capsule. This probiotic is ideal to take after a course of antibiotics to replenish lost beneficial bacteria. You want your probiotics to have a number after the name of the priobiotic strain. This demonstrates a clinically proven strain. This product only contains clinically proven strains of probiotics.
- Cytoflora. CytoFlora, a probiotic lysate, contains beneficial bacteria of which the cell wall has been decimated. This decimation releases vital substances and nutrients from the cell wall and cytoplasm. It’s one of the only probiotics that’s in a liquid delivery method. Perfect for giving to kids. It’s shown to dramatically improve the functioning of autistic children.
- Jigsaw Probiotics. This probiotic utilizes five of the most effective human strains, including the proven L. acidophilus La-14. Each capsule contains 25 billion live, friendly, active bacteria.
- Innate Response Flora 50-14. This is a good source of 14 bacterial strains that are extremely important in the gut.
- Syntol AMD. This probiotic is specifically formulated to fight candida and yeast infections. This supplement does not need refrigeration because it uses a spore delivery method. It’s great for traveling. It contains a spore germinating probiotic blend, a yeast digesting blend of enzymes, and a prebiotic blend to feed your gut flora.
- PrescriptAssist is specifically formulated to repopulate your gut after a round of antibiotics. In a recent study, Prescript-Assist was associated with significant reductions in symptoms of IBS.
- Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics. He uses a special 3-5 year aging process (depending on the formula) to ferment his probiotic brew. The probiotics are encapsulated with their culture medium of nutritious fermented vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, and seaweed. Yum!
You don’t need to take probiotics on an empty stomach. This was always the recommendation for weaker old generation probiotics. With today’s probiotics, you can take them anyway you want, with or without food, on a full or empty stomach, with milk, juice, or water.
Healing Leaky Gut Syndrome
Healing a leaky gut is essential to healing IBS. Leaky Gut Syndrome can be thought of as tiny holes in your intestines that allow food and bacteria to leak into your blood stream. Hundreds of yeast and bacteria are released from a leaky gut into the bloodstream where they set up infection anywhere, including muscles, joints, bones, teeth roots, coronary arteries, or even the brain. Addressing this problem is essential to health. Even if you don’t have leaky gut, these steps will kill bad bugs in your intestines and set you on the path to vibrant health.
- Infrared Saunas. Opportunistic infections like Candida, other yeasts, parasites and bacteria are a major contributor to IBS. In small quantities, many types of yeast are harmless. Under the right conditions, some of them, such as Candida Albicans, overgrow and become pathogenic. They secrete extremely poisonous chemicals in our bodies such as alcohol and acetaldehyde, and can cause or contribute to a wide range of health conditions. These infections tolerate heat poorly, making saunas ideal to keep them under control. Many of these infections are caused and exacerbated by mercury and copper toxicity, problems that resolve with sauna use. Learn more about Near Infrared Saunas. The Live to 110 Store has many different types of near infrared saunas to fit any budget.
- Garlic. Not only is garlic an antibiotic for Candida, H.pylori, and other bad bugs, but it also improves your immunity. Eat at least one raw or aged (fermented) garlic clove a day or take aged garlic supplements. Kyolic aged garlic extract is proven in hundreds of studies. Take 2 capsules 2-3 times a day. Ten cloves is equivalent to a dose of penicillin. And it gives you wonderful breath.
- Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is healing and cleansing to the gut. You get some whenever you eat green vegetables. Do wheatgrass shots twice a week. And take Innate Response Renewal Greens to tank up on chlorophyll.
- L-Glutamine. This amino acid is one of the best remedies for diarrhea and it works very quickly (within 2-3 days). I like Thorne L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine directly nourishes and heals the mucosal lining of the intestine and causes the bowel to reabsorb the water in your stool, thus reducing the number and frequency of bowel movements. Start with 1/4 teaspoon per day mixed in cold or room temperature water and drink on an empty stomach. If not working, increase to 1/4 teaspoon two or three times a day. Increase the dosage gradually (if you need it) to 1/2 tsp, then 3/4 tsp, even up to 1 tsp two or three times a day.
- Avoid NSAIDS. Anti-inflammatories like Advil or Aleve or narcotic pain medications damage the gut lining and cause leaky gut syndrome.
- Avoid Antibiotics. Avoid them unless you have a life threatening infection. Seek out natural antibiotics like garlic, oil of oregano, etc. You will back to square one after a round of antibiotics. They kill your infection but also kill all the good probiotics in your intestines, allowing the proliferation of yeast and pathogenic bacteria.
IBS can be triggered by stress and anxiety. For some, anxiety plays a huge role in IBS. You must find ways to relax and control anxiety.
- I love Innate Response Calm Response to reduce anxiety. It has several effective herbs to reduce anxiety like ashwagandha, holy basil and l-theanine.
- Try meditation, yoga, infrared saunas, and breathing exercises. A simple meditation can be found on Drlwilson.com.
- Green tea has calming effects, though the caffeine can strip the lining of the intestines.
- Group or individual therapy is effective.
- Try Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.
The following things can be done to relieve an IBS attack:
- Lie down and relax
- Breath to relieve tension
- Drink water
- Eat plain foods, no spices
- Massage your stomach area
- No alcohol
- No More Heartburn by Sherry Rogers. This book is about how to heal the entire digestive system.
- Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Campbell-McBride
- I Healed Myself from IBS and You Can Too by Randi Cestaro
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
- IBS: Free at Last! Change Your Carbs, Change Your Life with the FODMAP Elimination Diet by Patsy Catsos
Have any of these suggestions helped you heal your IBS? I want to know! Have I left anything out? Tell me your story by leaving a comment below.
1. Campbell-McBride.Gut and Psychology Syndrome
2. I Healed Myself from IBS and You Can Too by Randi Cestaro
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome by Dr. Thomas Cowen http://www.westonprice.org
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/digestive/irritable-bowel-syndrome.htm
5. Ten Home Remedies for Diarrhea http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/home-remedies/10-home-remedies-for-diarrhea8.htm
6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome http://www.aboutIBS.org
7. IBS Diet http://www.helpforibs.com/diet/?gclid=CJypzun7lbECFQxshwodwDU0fA
8. Natural Remedies That Work: Irritable Bowel Syndrome by Jini Patel Thompson http://www.healingwell.com/library/ibs/article.asp?author=thompson&id=2