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Did Food Poison Cause My IBS?

According to experts and research, we don’t actually know the root cause of irritable bowel syndrome. The reason being is there is no biomarker that indicates a clear physical disease from medical tests, like there is for cancer or Crohn’s Disease. However, if I had to guess what caused my IBS, I would blame it on a traumatic food poisoning experience I went through back in 2009. Here’s the short version of the story:

In the summer of 2009, I attended a baby shower, which is where the Armageddon occurred in my stomach and bowels. I can’t recall everything I consumed that night, but I do remember having a beer alongside some antacids that didn’t mix so well in my stomach. This all resulted in the worst diarrhea I had ever dealt with and extreme nausea the next day. A few weeks later I was still suffering symptoms of food poisoning so I decided to see a specialist about it, and the specialist then prescribed me some medication. The meds didn’t seem to work because weeks later, I was still suffering from the constant bathroom trips, nausea, and stomach pain. The specialist then recommended a colonoscopy and endoscopy, which concluded in them finding a bacterial infection in my stomach called Helicobacter Pylori. I was then prescribed antibiotics to get rid of the infection, and it worked, the bacteria died. However, the symptoms remained and it took 5 more years of undergoing numerous tests and appointments until I got diagnosed with IBS.

Hitting the books

After some digging, I found out it is very possible that I am victim of post-infectious IBS, which is getting the disease as a result of food poisoning or infection. According to Dr. Mark Pimentel, who is the Director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in his book, “A New IBS Solution”, he talks about research being conducted in Europe that suggests “that food poisoning and certain types of parasitic infection (primarily amoeba, Cryptosporidium parvum, and giardia, each of which can be contracted by drinking contaminated water) may precipitate what is known as ‘post-infectious IBS’.” (pg. 38) So, in other words, it is believed and to some extent, proven that food poisoning could lead to irritable bowel syndrome.

Dr. Pimentel goes on to mention that back in the early 2000’s, another study was done that further proves this claim. European researchers took “biopsies of the rectums of IBS patients known to have had food poisoning as the cause of their IBS. Their research showed that there were increased white blood cell counts in the lining of the rectums of patients with post-infectious IBS.” (pg. 42) This showed that even after the bacteria was gone, patients were still suffering from inflammation, and thus still feeling symptoms. Based on this information and the numerous other studies performed on patients who suffer from post-infectious IBS, I believe it is safe to assume that I got IBS as a result of my baby-shower-food-poisoning incident.

Remembering my first symptoms

I can vividly remember the traumatic event that led to post-infectious IBS in the summer of 2009. I’ll never forget the painful and embarrassing moment when I had to use the toilet so bad that I almost went on myself in public because of what I now think was food poisoning. Ever since then, my life has been a rollercoaster, a freaking nerve-racking one, but one that has made me stronger than I ever thought I could be. Can you remember the first time you started suffering from IBS symptoms and what might have caused it?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • manawela
    2 years ago

    I suffered my IBS in 2012. It started in Feb and lasted to May, I was fortunate to be able to figure out what I needed to do, though not much help from doctors except for one who did work with me and gave me what I asked for when I made a good case for it. I was able to kick my IBS completely but by the time may rolled around I had lost 50 pounds. Fortunately for me I am already obese so that weight loss only made me look better but dropping that much weight involuntarily in that short of a time was a nightmare. I too started with a bout of food poisoning and was sick as a dog for almost a week. I just laid in bed, didn’t eat, drank little and used the bathroom once the whole time. That was my problem constipation instead of diarrhea. When I got over the food poisoning the IBS reared it’s head and I just could not eat. There were times when out of the blue I felt normal, and could eat and function normally but that usually lasted no more then a few days and the problem returned. I did do a lot of research when I could, but only when I felt normal. When I was in IBS mode my state of mind was such I could not focus on anything. I couldn’t sleep. To sleep I would walk myself into the ground until I was so exhausted I just passed out. It was not unusual to be out walking at 4 in the morning trying to tire myself out enough to sleep and while driving, getting caught at red lights were horrible, I had to fight the need to get out of the car and pace.Doctors were of little help I was prescribed a few drugs non worked, laxatives did not work either, I guess cause basically I had little in my stomach. But I did notice that most of the times I felt normal for a few days came after visits to the doctors, even if nothing basically was done. I was thinking this was all in my mind, and it was but it wasn’t. I read about the brain-gut connection and learned my mind was probably the reason for what I felt but the physical part was real, my mind triggered my guts into behaving that way. After a little research I asked my doctor for clonazepam, after reading how it fought anxiety. I figured out I was probably experiencing some form of PTSD from the food poisoning that triggered my IBS bouts. PTSD affects your subconscious, so even if you consciously know it’s caused by your mind your sub conscious can play havoc with you anyway. Fortunately my doctor listened and agreed to try. It worked. It didn’t fully take it away from the git go, but when I used it for the first time, I was back to normal. I thought to myself great I was right, but still there was the nagging worry that it would return. After the first time I took it, I was ok for almost 2 weeks, then it came back. I dealt with it for a couple days to see if it would pass on its own, when it didn’t I took the clonazapam again, and sure enough I was back to normal. This lasted for almost 3 weeks, before the IBS came back, same thing as before I was worried about it coming back and it did. Again I took a dose of clonazepam and again I was back to normal, but this time I stayed that way. The IBS never came back after that. I still have the remainder of that script in my medicine cabinet 5 years later, just in case but I consider myself cured. I have mentioned what happened to other doctors and they all refuse to believe I cured my IBS with clonazapam. But I did have an appointment scheduled with a psychiatrist to work on this mind-gut thing, but before the appointment it was gone. I asked him about it and he said some thing like, “cognitive realization”. There are a lot of causes of IBS, and what I did worked for me it may not work for you but when I read of people who have suffered for years with IBS, I consider myself very lucky.

  • Caren
    2 years ago

    I had the WORST intestinal sickness ten years ago. My guts have NEVER been the same since. I was diagnosed last year. I have always felt that was the start of this ibs.

  • Chris Hall moderator
    2 years ago

    So sorry to hear that, Caren! Were you ever placed on any antibiotics or other treatments after this episode? We’d love to hear more about your experience. A great way to do that is to share you story to be published on our site! You can do so by clicking on this link: Thanks for sharing with us. – Chris, Team Member

  • HessP moderator author
    2 years ago

    I’m sorry to hear that your guts have never been the same since then, Caren! Please know that you are not alone and we are always here for support. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and being able to resonate with it. Wishing you lots of strength and positivity!

    Hess ( Team)

  • Pennsylvania
    2 years ago

    I always suspected that my IBS began about 30 years ago when we had a town wide outbreak of giardia from the water supply. I recovered from the giardia but that was when my problems started. Your article reinforced my suspicion.

  • Chris Hall moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing that, Pennsylvania. That’s terrible that there was a town-wide giardia outbreak! One of our contributors actually wrote an article about her experience when she developed giardia. I thought you might be interested in reading it: Thanks for taking the time to comment! – Chris, Team Member

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