5. IBS Causes (continued)
Food allergens or sensitivities
Food allergies or food sensitivities typically present with symptoms including gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in stool frequency and consistency, much like those of IBS. In food sensitivities, which cause IgG or delayed immune responses, it can take up to 72 hours for symptoms to appear, making the cause difficult to pin down. In addition to the most common food allergies, such as peanuts, I find that gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs are common food sensitivities that irritate the bowel and digestive system, leading to IBS-like symptoms.
To identify foods that might be causing your IBS symptoms, as well as other symptoms that you might have thought were unrelated to your digestive distress, I recommend completing a comprehensive elimination diet. The program will remove all common inflammatory foods from your diet and then reintroduce them one at a time so that you can determine any food sensitivities.
Many IBS patients notice that their symptoms become worse as their stress increases, and studies have shown a link between higher stress levels and increased rates of IBS. This is because your brain and your gut are connected by your central nervous system via the vagus nerve. When you are stressed, your body’s stress response can cause your colon to contract too much or too little (causing constipation or diarrhea) in the same way that stress can cause your heart rate to increase and your blood pressure to rise.
Interestingly, the connection shared between your gut and your brain is actually a two-way connection. Your brain sends signals to your gut, but your gut produces key neurotransmitters that your brain uses to regulate mood. In fact your gut produces 95% of your serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and sleep. This means that gut issues can impact your serotonin levels, causing you to actually experience more stress, which can in turn affect your IBS. To learn more about the gut-brain connection and how to manage your stress, you can read this article.