Wednesday, 23 September 2015

IBS and the Gut-Brain Connection

Researchers estimate that 1 in 4 people have a limitation of daily function due to functional gastrointestinal disorders. 

Many of those people get the diagnosis that “nothing is wrong with you” since symptoms remain largely unexplained. At times, conventional testing fails to find the cause of the problem since testing comes back normal.

How can that be?

Digestion is a process that begins in the mouth and continues all the way until you have a bowel movement in the bathroom. Enzymes, bacteria, hormones, mechanical functions and an extensive network of nerves regulate digestion. The brain and spinal cord unconsciously drive the process of digestion. There are multiple nerve endings in the wall of each and every abdominal organ and tissue gathering information and allowing this natural process to take place.

There is emerging science – and perhaps something we’ve known all along – that links the brain to a direct correlation between the digestive systems nerve network. It is the scientific “mind-body connection” that is partly directed by the vagus nerve. It is the link between the brain’s functions and the digestion’s functions and they simultaneously feedback to each other of the process that is occurring.

This connection between the brain and the gut is a large part of what we call functional gastrointestinal disorders, more commonly known and often clinically seen as IBS – irritable bowel syndrome. 

Symptoms of IBS include fullness, bloating, constipation and diarrhea, and possibly abdominal pain and indigestion. 

You might be doing all the right things – taking probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes, motility support, fiber, eliminating food allergens – yet your symptoms aren’t improving. 

The idea of the mind-body connection about the digestive system is this: if the brain isn’t functioning well, digestion will have a difficult time working well as a result. Buzz words like IBS, leaky gut syndrome and the like will be the likely outcome. Not to mention our mental state – anxiety, depression, stress – they all play a crucial role in increasing gastric upset. 

In a 2001 study, published in the Journal of Psychology, found that 50-90% of IBS patients seeking treatment had a psychiatric disorder (anxiety, phobia, PTSD, major depression). They also found that when someone feels more anxious, depressed or stressed, they will focus more attention on the gastrointestinal issue.

If you want to understand more about your IBS you can book a  complementary no-obligation assessment with one of our experienced health coaches who can answer your questions. Call 613 230-0998, book online, or email today!

About the author

Dr. Josée Boyer is a board certified bilingual Naturopathic Doctor with a general family practice. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree (Biomedical Sciences) from Laurentian University, in her native Sudbury, Ontario before pursuing her naturopathic medical training in Toronto.

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