The Liver and IBS

When I was 14 and wrapping up my first year of high school, I came down with hepatitis A. There are several strains of hepatitis---a disorder of the liver---types A, B, and C. Type A is a viral infection and can be spread through drinking from the same cup as someone who has without washing it first, or kissing, etc. Types B and C are more difficult to spread and usually can be contracted through using the same needles, sexual intercourse, and in rare cases, blood transfusions. All types of hepatitis can cause inflammation of the liver, and can be accompanied by symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.

The liver and IBS

When I had hepatitis A, I experienced all of these symptoms, and within days had lost over ten pounds. It would not be till six years later when I was half-way through college and first started having IBS-related symptoms that I began to experience anything close to what happened with the hepatitis. I thought it put in perspective how IBS can impact you as much as other diseases the medical establishment takes more seriously.

At some point after I graduated college, I went to see an acupuncturist and herbalist to try getting my IBS under control. After reviewing my entire medical history, he thought my past experience with hepatitis might have made me more susceptible to developing IBS. He told me that the liver might be weakened by the hep A and have residual weakness long after the disease has dissipated. And since the liver has a role in digestion, it can contribute to IBS-like symptoms.

I am not sure how much science was behind his claims. I do know that his treatments---both the needling and the herbal tincture I drank each night that he prescribed; both of which were focused on strengthening my liver and detoxifying it---seemed to seriously help quell my IBS symptoms (at least for awhile). Whether that's a placebo effect or not, I couldn't say for sure (though I had tried many other things by this point and hadn't experienced any relief).

The liver and healthy bowel function

There is at least *some* documented correlation to the role of the liver in maintaining healthy bowel function and in a compromised liver in causing bowel issues. An editorial from a peer review journal published spring 2018 explored the connection between bile acids (which are synthesized in the liver) and IBS-C.1 Another study found that patients with hep C were much more likely to have IBS (though not if they had hepatitis B).2

Of course, if you think you may have something going on with your liver that is impacting your IBS, you should speak to a medical professional. Some herbs---like milk thistle and dandelion---help detoxify the liver and are relatively harmless to try (again, consult with your doctor first, especially if you are pregnant or nursing). Also, eating a whole food diet and drinking lots of water and minimizing alcohol intake can also help strengthen the liver.

Have you had any issues with you liver that you think may have impacted your IBS? Or have you tried liver cleansing or healing herbs or diets and noticed a benefit to your IBS (or not)? Please share in the comments below!

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