What is IBS?

by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath

So really, what is IBS?

First off understand that IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. According to the National Library of Medicine, IBS is defined as a disorder that leads to abdominal pain and cramping, changes in bowel movements, and other symptoms. IBS is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In IBS, the structure of the bowel is not abnormal.

In itself this really does not seem like much of a definition but it truly makes sense. First of all, when something has the word syndrome after it, it basically means that there is a recognized issue but there is not a defined underlying cause for this issue. Oh, does that mean that there is not an underlying cause for IBS? Absolutely not!

While I will not say that this is an absolute, I would share that most of the clients that visit our clinic find that their diagnosis of IBS is most likely tied into leaky gut. 

I get it, the next confusion is what the heck is leaky gut. Honestly if this was to be correctly named, it would be called leaky small intestine. You can see though that this name could perhaps be even more confusing. 

Let me explain leaky gut very simply.

In a healthy digestive system, there are extremely small openings in the small intestines known as tight junctions. Through these tight junctions in the small intestines your body will allow nutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and coenzymes through into your blood stream to nourish your body and more. This is a very important aspect of digestion and optimal health. Well, when you have leaky gut these tight junctions become compromised, thus widening to the point that they allow large undigested compounds (food), toxins and other bacteria to enter into the bloodstream. When undigested proteins as well as other undigested foods, toxins and bacteria enter the bloodstream this creates what would be considered an autoimmune type of reaction. This then leads to a viscous cycle of further intestinal inflammation and greater loss of intestinal permeability A.K.A., more leaky gut.

When this occurs, what symptoms do you think this will lead to? If you guessed abdominal pain and cramping, changes in bowel movements, and other symptoms you are correct. Do these symptoms sound similar to any other diagnosis in conventional medicine? 

You bet it does…IBS.

So the next time you hear the letters IBS think leaky gut because this is more than likely your issue.

The challenge here is that you will almost never hear that words leaky gut from your conventional doctor. From a conventional perspective there is little understanding of leaky gut and even worse, almost zero understanding of what causes this and what it leads to.

Let’s first look at what this can often lead to. 

If you remember from the definition from the National Library of Medicine, they mentioned that IBS is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and that with IBS, the structure of the bowel is not abnormal. While this may be true, if you live with leaky gut long enough and this is not addressed, challenges such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are not far around the corner. Also while the structure of the bowel may not appear to be abnormal at the onset of leaky gut or IBS, long term struggles with this will most often lead to inflammation and structural abnormalities.

With this said, doesn’t it make sense to understand leaky gut a bit further and obviously address the underlying causes of this challenge? 


Here is a list of the mechanisms for leaky gut.

  • Brain mechanisms such as a traumatic brain injury
  • Stress mechanisms such as a prolonged exposure to stress, which can induce a low-grade inflammatory affect
  • Hormone mechanisms such as adrenal insufficiency and a lack of proper testosterone, estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones levels in both men and women
  • Alcohol mechanism due to its ability to promote detrimental bacteria growth as well as intestinal permeability
  • Autoimmunity mechanism based on the fact that not only does leaky gut promote autoimmunity but also the fact that autoimmunity promotes leaky gut
  • Nutritional mechanisms such as gluten intolerance, cross reactive intolerance and the standard American diet which is high in sugar, chemicals and processed foods
  • Infections in the gut such as but not limited to parasites, protozoa, H-pylori and more

You may be thinking that based on this list, there is likely a high percentage of people living with leaky gut and they do not even know it. You think???

Just look around you, or perhaps look at yourself. How many people do you know that have some level of digestive disturbance? Remember how this is defined, abdominal pain and cramping, changes in bowel movements, and other symptoms. This can often be recognized as somewhat regular diarrhea or very often constipation. The key for you may be to even define constipation. I share this definition as one bowel movement or less per day. Yes, even one bowel movement per day would be considered as constipation in my book. To be honest, there are so many individuals that actually think that their one bowel movement in the morning is actually normal and health. 

Think again!

So what other type of challenges are associated with leaky gut?

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Depression
  • Chronic Inflammatory Challenges
  • Chronic Pain
  • Inflammatory Bowel
  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Chronic Yeast Issues
  • Brain Fog

Now how many people that have these above issues would actually equate this with leaky gut? That answer is slim to none and unfortunately many of these people are missing the boat and unfortunately suffering.

To put it simply, if you live with leaky gut long enough you will likely feel fatigued, depressed and inflamed. 

So what is a person to do if they feel that they have leaky gut?

First of all define the type of person you are. If you require testing to confirm this, I would recommend Cyrex Labs Array #2. This panel will provide the information you need to recognize this as an issue for you.

If you are the type of person that recognizes that this is likely your challenge and testing is not needed for you confirmation, you can simply move into the steps below.

  • Assess your likelihood of a gluten intolerance or cross reactive intolerance and eliminate the foods that are issues for you
  • Significantly reduce sugar and processed foods from your diet
  • Drastically cut back on alcohol consumption and always give yourself a minimum of 3 days rest between alcoholic beverages
  • Reduce your stress and/or learn healthy ways of addressing your stress
  • Work with a qualified natural health care practitioner if you have had a history of brain trauma to address the potential of brain inflammation, mid brain challenges and/or neurotransmitter imbalances
  • Balance your adrenals, thyroid as well as other hormones
  • Reduce chronic inflammatory states
  • Assess your likelihood of gut infections and address accordingly
  • Use gut restorative supplements such as L-glutamine, DGL and aloe vera
  • Use a quality prebiotic/probiotic such as the Depke Wellness Prebiotic/Probiotic Formula

There are deeper levels to address leaky gut as we do with our clients at Depke Wellness but the steps above are a significant move in a healthy direction for you. 

So the next time you, a friend or a loved one her the letters IBS, you’ll now have a deeper understanding of what this mean and more importantly, what you can do. 

If you are new to Depke Wellness and you have been diagnose with IBS or feel that leaky gut is an issue for you, call our office at (949)954-6225. We offer a complimentary 20 minute phone or in office consultation for all new clients. 

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