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Possible causes of IBS

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Is this you? You have some niggling pains in your tummy, something feels off so you go to your GP. You spill your list of complaints, she tells you to 'hop on the bed there', and let me feel your belly.

After a minute of pressing and tapping, you get your diagnosis: You have IBS!

Fantastic! Now what?

'Just be careful with what you eat, reduce coffee and oranges.' said my GP before ushering me out of her treatment room. I just about had time to pull my jumper back down.

Funnily, the very next day I was due to go to a lecture on IBS, as this was in my college years!

Needless to say I sat in the front of the room, notepad at the ready.

Since then I've learned so much about gut health, and especially IBS. It can be complex, life changing, tiring and make any sufferers extremely conscious of their bodies and bodily functions. And although there are a lot of different approaches to managing symptoms, the best way to go about it is to go to the root cause and start with the reason why your symptoms started in the first place.

Here's a list of possible causes below.

Nutritional Deficiencies

This can occur when your nutrient intake consistently falls below the recommended requirements, and can lead to a variety of health problems. You are what you absorb.

Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is an imbalance of the bugs (microorganisms) in your gut. Too many bacteria, or the wrong kind, can populate the small intestine, and lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as gas and diarrhea.

Leaky gut

Although not recognised as a real condition by mainstream medical professionals, a leaky gut (also known as increased intestinal permeability), is a digestive condition in which bacteria, molecular food particles and toxins are able to “leak” through the intestinal wall.


Endotoxins, also called LPS, are released when bacteria die. They are part of the outer membrane of certain bacteria. When endotoxins are able to cross the gastro-intestinal barrier to end up in the bloodstream, you have endotoxemia.

Food Intolerances

Difficulty digesting certain foods, with a whole host of unpleasant reactions as a result, such as: Bloating, Constipation, Diarrhea, Headaches, Brain fog, Nausea, Joint pain.

Pancreatic Insufficiency

The pancreas releases specific enzymes that help to digest the food in your small intestine. When your pancreas either doesn't make enough or release enough digestive enzymes, you get Pancreatic Insufficiency.

Parasitic Infection

Some parasites grow, reproduce, invade or feed of the host (you, or in this case, your digestive system), which could make you sick and lead to an infection.


Hypochloridia, or low stomach acid, can be a cause of digestive problems, vitamin deficiencies, or an infection in the stomach. Hypochloridia is sometimes mistaken for high stomach acid, leading you to reduce the stomach acid even further with medication.

Bile Acid Diarrhea (BAD)

Chronic diarrhea, caused by your body's inability to absorb bile properly. This may lead to large amounts of bile and increased fluid in the large intestine, causing watery and sometimes urgent diarrhea.

Slow Transit Time

Means it takes a long time (more than 72hrs) from the moment you eat something until it comes out. This can lead to irritation in your bowel, increased candida and bacterial overgrowth and diverticulitis.

A simple way to test your transit time is to eat a lot of either sweetcorn, beetroot, or charcoal tablets. Take note when you eat this, and take note when you see signs of it leaving your body.

Mucosal Oxidative Stress

Damage in the mucosal layer (the innermost layer of your digestive tract) caused by oxidants such as: cigarette smoke, alcohol, NSAIDS, toxic fumes and so on.

Mucosal Inflammation

Mostly chronic and often painful inflammation of the mucosal layer, resulting in conditions such as: IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's Disease.

A lot of these causes can lead to, or create the 'diagnosis' IBS. If you find out which one of those causes apply to you, you can start making changes accordingly and go on the path to recovery!

As many possible causes there are for IBS, a similar amount of approaches to reduce your symptoms. Ranging from identifying sensitivities, changing your diet (increasing fiber intake, reducing processed sugars), implementing ways to improve digestion (increasing probiotic foods, moving regularly and chewing your food well), to approaching your oxidative and internal stress levels!

If you are at a loss or are not quite sure where to start, here at the Happy Gut Coach, we can help you in several ways. We have a specialised 12 week Gut Health & Wellness program, 4 week Gut Health Recipe plan and private coaching.

Click the image below to find out more.

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