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Root Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS Symptoms

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a prevalent gastrointestinal disorder that affects more than 10% of individuals globally. This chronic condition is characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel habits, including constipation and/or diarrhea. Despite its prevalence, the exact causes of IBS remain elusive. In many cases of IBS, it is a diagnosis of exclusion, which simply means that no underlying root cause of the symptoms has been found.

Unfortunately, without an understanding of the root cause of these symptoms, effective and sustainable treatment cannot be offered. Individuals suffering with the cluster of symptoms that have been dubbed IBS often chase one band-aid solution after another without ever finding true relief.

So what can you do if you’ve been diagnosed with or suspect you have IBS beyond the band-aid approach?


Irritable Bowel Syndrome often involves an imbalance in the gut microbiota, the diverse community of microorganisms residing in our digestive system. This imbalance can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).  SIBO occurs when bacteria that normally reside in the colon migrate into the small intestine, where they shouldn't be in excessive quantities. This overpopulation of bacteria in the small intestine can result in the fermentation of undigested carbohydrates, leading to gas production, bloating, and other IBS symptoms.

Proper diagnosis of SIBO involves a breath test that measures the gases produced by the bacteria. Treatment strategies often include antibiotics or antimicrobial herbal supplements to reduce bacterial overgrowth, coupled with dietary modifications to manage symptoms and promote gut health.

Food Sensitivities and IBS


Dietary factors may play a significant role in IBS. Understanding the relationship between food sensitivities and IBS can aid in symptom management. Certain foods can exacerbate IBS symptoms in susceptible individuals. Gluten, dairy, and artificial additives are common culprits. An elimination diet, involving the systematic removal and reintroduction of specific foods, can help identify trigger foods and alleviate symptoms. If you work with us, we will help you establish a strong CleanFOOD pillar to support your digestive health and minimize digestive symptoms, like those associated with IBS.

Many doctors recommend a diet low in FODMAPs to manage IBS symptoms. FODMAPs are fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, where they ferment and cause uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating. A low-FODMAP diet is not a long-term treatment strategy. It is highly restrictive, is difficult to adhere to, and may put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies.

We strongly recommend that anyone following any sort of restrictive diet work with a qualified nutrition professional (Certified Nutrition Specialist or Registered Dietitian), who can help you understand how to adhere to restrictions in a healthy way, how long to follow that diet, and how to transition to a greater variety of foods. Remember, too, that your nutrition needs are unique. A qualified professional with extensive training in nutrition can recommend a personalized nutrition plan.

Stress and IBS


Stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors are closely linked to IBS. The gut and the brain communicate bidirectionally through the gut-brain axis. Chronic stress can influence gut motility, sensitivity, and function, contributing to the onset and exacerbation of IBS symptoms. Incorporating mind-body approaches, such as meditation, yoga, and therapy, can play a crucial role in managing IBS symptoms by addressing the psychological aspect of the condition.

Genetic Predisposition and IBS


 While not fully understood, there is evidence to suggest a genetic component to IBS. Research is ongoing to identify specific genetic markers associated with IBS. Understanding genetic predispositions can help in tailoring treatment plans and interventions for individuals with a family history of IBS.

Intestinal Infections and Post-Infectious IBS


Some cases of IBS may be triggered by past gastrointestinal infections. In some individuals, IBS symptoms may develop following a bout of gastrointestinal infection. This condition, known as post-infectious IBS, involves long-lasting changes in gut function due to the immune response to the initial infection. Prior infection may also be related to SIBO as discussed above. Understanding the connection between past infections and IBS can guide healthcare professionals in developing effective strategies for managing symptoms and promoting gut health.


In unraveling the enigma of IBS, exploring the intricate web of potential root causes becomes essential. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) emerges as a significant player in the context of gut microbiota imbalance. Considering food sensitivities, psychological factors, genetic predispositions, and previous intestinal infections provides a holistic perspective on IBS.

Acknowledging the multifaceted nature of IBS allows us to adopt a comprehensive approach to management. By understanding and addressing these root causes, we pave the way for more personalized and effective strategies that empower you to take control of their digestive well-being. Stay informed, stay proactive, and embark on a journey toward better digestive health.

If you need support for IBS, you can a book a consult today to see how we can help!


Canavan, C., West, J., & Card, T. (2014). The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clinical epidemiology, 71-80.

Ghoshal, U. C., Shukla, R., & Ghoshal, U. (2017). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome: a bridge between functional organic dichotomy. Gut and liver, 11(2), 196.

Qin, H. Y., Cheng, C. W., Tang, X. D., & Bian, Z. X. (2014). Impact of psychological stress on irritable bowel syndrome. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG, 20(39), 14126.

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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