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A bewildered-looking person sits with their head in their hands. Behind their head are circles showing a food diary, a person getting blood drawn, a stool test bottle, and foods that are crossed out.

Figuring Out the Root Cause of Your IBS

IBS is a syndrome or a collection of symptoms that we are diagnosed with when no other medical cause of the symptoms can be found. But there is the possibility your IBS is caused by one thing or a range of things. But where do you even begin? First, working with a qualified health practitioner is a good place to start. Here are some of the ways you can investigate what’s going on and get to the bottom of your IBS:

Keep a food diary

Keep a food, symptom and mood diary for 1 week, recording as much information as possible, the more information the better as it will give you and your health practitioner lots of good information about what’s causing some problems for you. It could be not just what you’re eating but how often and how much you’re eating. Drinks are really important too so make you record that information.

There are 2 ways to go about recording a food diary: either write it on paper or use an app. There are plenty of free apps out there, but make sure there’s room to enter your symptoms and mood too.

IgG test

There are different types of immunoglobulins in the body and IgG is just one of them. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is a critical part of the immune response as they detect and bind to antigens or foreign bodies.

If you’re sensitive to a type of food, the IgG reaction can occur hours or even days after exposure. This type of reaction is called a delayed sensitivity reaction. This type of test will help you identify if there is a specific type of food you’re reacting to.

Stool test

There are different types of stool tests which can help provide insight around types and levels of bacteria, parasites, or yeasts that are present, how well food is being digested and absorbed along with markers for inflammation. Stool tests can help provide further insight around what is going on inside your bowels and can help determine treatment.

Elimination diet or a low FODMAP diet

If you’re reacting to nearly everything, it’s probably a good idea to work with a qualified nutritionist and start an elimination diet. A low FODMAP diet is helpful for those who feel like carbohydrates are causing problems, as a low FODMAP diet removes sugars that are harder to digest.

Reasons why you might have IBS

Once diseases such as IBD and celiac disease are ruled out, there are a few reasons or contributing factors that can be behind IBS and here are a few of them:1-5

  • Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is believed to be a common cause of IBS and occurs when there is too much bacteria in the small intestine.
  • Chronic stress and anxiety can lead to poor peristalsis, as a result, affects the digestion and absorption of food and is also linked to intestinal inflammation.
  • Low stomach acid or hypochlorhydria is linked to SIBO and can interfere with the absorption of food.
  • Low small pancreatic enzymes are often caused by low stomach acid.
  • Yeast overgrowth such as Candida albicans.
  • Food intolerances; some examples being foods high in histamine, lactose, wheat, and intolerances to food chemicals such as salicylates or sulfites.
  • Dysbiosis or an imbalanced microbiome where there isn’t enough good or protective bacteria.
  • Intestinal permeability, also known as a leaky gut, can be associated with these conditions.
  • Poor liver detoxification happens when the body is overburdened due to poor diet or from various contaminants such as chemicals, heavy metals, and medications. IBS can occur along with a range of other symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches.

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.

  1. Borghini, R., Donato, G., Alvaro, D., & Picarelli, A. (2017). New insights in IBS-like disorders: Pandora's box has been opened; a review. Gastroenterology and hepatology from bed to bench. 10(2), 79–89. Accessed: November 25, 2019.
  2. Verheijden, S., Boeckxstaens, G. (2018). Neuroimmune interaction and the regulation of intestinal immune homeostasis. American Journal of Physiology, 314(1), G75-G80. Accessed: November 25, 2019.
  3. Bures, J., Cyrany, J., Kohoutova, D., Förstl, M., Rejchrt, S., Kvetina, J., Kopacova, M. (2010). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome. World journal of gastroenterology, 16(24), 2978–2990. doi:10.3748/wjg.v16.i24.2978. Accessed: November 25, 2019.
  4. Jaffe, R. (2013). Bioactive Food as Dietary Interventions for Liver and Gastrointestinal Disease. Retrieved from Accessed: November 25, 2019.
  5. Fortney, L., Podein, R., & Hernke, M. (2018). Detoxification. Integrative Medicine, 996–1003.e2. doi:10.1016/b978-0-323-35868-2.00106-7. Accessed: November 25, 2019.