Irritable Bowel is a serious health condition often accompanied by abdominal pain and cramps. In the U.K. it affects up to 1 in 5 of the adult population with similar figures for the U.S. (1 in 6) and Australia (1 in 7).
As many as 76% of irritable bowel sufferers in the U.S. go undiagnosed.
Inflammation of the intestinal wall can be caused by pathogens like candida albicans yeast, viruses, bad bacteria and parasites. Any blood found in the stool should be promptly investigated by your doctor.
With these high numbers come the many different approaches to tackling intestinal pain. In my own experience, methods I followed under G.P. or hospital specialist’s guidance unfortunately did very little in providing any kind of long term relief.
I undertook many medical tests, including a visit to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London to check for parasites, a colonoscopy and a Barium Meal test. All the tests proved inconclusive despite the many times I would be out with friends and find myself doubled up in agony from sharp abdominal pain!
Abdominal Pain – Causes:
The causes of abdominal pain are varied and can be due to factors that allow for the build up of pathogens (bad bacteria, parasites, candida yeast and viruses) in the gut.
Causes can range from diets that are high in sugar rich foods, which feed pathogens in the gut, all the way through to less obvious culprits like heavy metals and chemical toxicity that weakens immune system response and creates the perfect environment for pathogen overload.
The type of symptoms associated with irritable bowel can be diverse and cover anything from mild abdominal pain and discomfort caused by bloating to severe abdominal pain and cramps to inflammation of the colon wall (Crohn’s Disease).
Intestinal pain symptoms can occur over the short term where the episode eventually clears itself up (holiday stomach bug) to chronic where the condition has been long term and debilitating.
With short term cases of abdominal pain, it would be advisable to carry out the relevant checks to dismiss obvious culprits like bacterial or parasitic infections.
1) Diets High in Carbohydrates and Fast Sugar Releasing Foods
A high consumption of carbohydrates and fast sugar releasing foods (high glycemic index) encourage bad bacterial growth and activity in the gut causing incomplete digestion and the build up of painful gas.
Unfortunately high sugar diets feed pathogens in the gut.
The hormone insulin is released to bring down high sugar levels in the blood. High insulin levels in the blood are caused by high carb diets. The result of long term high sugar diets negatively and critically impacts immune system functioning through insulin’s negative action upon eicosanoid production. Eicosanoids are super hormone chemical messengers and determine if the body creates good or “bad” fats.
Technically there are no bad fats. “Bad” cholesterol or low density lipoprotiens (L.D.L) are necessary. The problems of clogged arteries comes when the diet is high in carbs/sugars and little exercise is taken. See this article on: “Bad” Cholesterol.
2) Diets Low in Fats
There has been a huge myth in the food and slimming industries expounded by the marketing industry and mainstream press: They tell you that fats are bad for us and we should avoid them! Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth! Do avoid trans fats because these are synthetic junk fats that preserve foods but which the body can’t break down.
Essential Fatty Acids (E.F.A.)
They’re called “essential” fatty acids because the body can’t function without them and so they must be obtained in our diets. E.F.A.’s include omega 3 and 6. The ratio of these fats is vital but our diets have become imbalanced with high consumption of omega 6 in relation to omega 3. Omega 6 is found in vegetable oils, fried and packaged foods and baked goods which are now far more readily available – and generally eaten well beyond the correct balance of 4 : 1 (Omega 6/Omega 3).
Not all saturated fats are bad. Those oils derived from commercial high temperature processing and margarines, and those found in cakes/biscuits etc, are.
Good saturated fats come from foods like olives, advocados, canola and coconut oils, and nuts like cashews and macadamias. Saturated fats like those from animals meats are also only harmful and clog your arteries if eaten in conjunction with a high carbohydrate diet.
As mentioned above, Insulin/blood sugar levels determine how these fats are broken down into good cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol. High sugar diets result in more bad cholesterol being made. See the point about super hormones above and L.D.L’s.
What is the reason why eating fats is so essential for health?
Apart from the fact that they help govern our hormonal system (“if you don’t eat the fats, you can’t make the (happy) hormones!” as my nutritionist would say) and a lot of other bodily functions, they also have an immune anti-inflammatory function and anti microbial function.
3) Bacterial or Parasitic Infection
There are tests that can be taken to rule out bacterial or parasitic infection, however these can be subject to error.
4) Gut Candida Yeast Overgrowth
Candida yeast occurs naturally in the gut but it can, in the right conditions (e.g. with a weakened immune system) compromise digestion and affect the digestion and absorption of nutrients. This then robs you of the nutrition you need and creates abdominal pain.
More serious issues with Candida Albicans yeast can lead to “Leaky Gut” and gut permeability. This is a condition where the lining of the gut becomes compromised by the root system of the candida yeast and undigested proteins enter the bloodstream. This causes a range of debilitating symptoms, headaches and spacey feelings being the most common.
For more info see my blog post: The Candida Albicans / Heavy Metals Connection
5) Food Intolerance
Intolerances to food can create considerable problems ranging from fatigue, bloating, abdominal pain and discomfort, constipation, diarrhoea, skin rashes, joint pain to depression.
The most common intolerance to gluten, occurs due to an inflammatory response to proteins found in grains like wheat, rye and oats. This then damages the gut lining creating further issues with digestion and absorption. Every time you consume gluten, gut permeability increases immediately – think of a kitchen sieve and the holes increasing in diameter and that will give you a better idea of what is going on. Abdominal pain can also be caused by high fibre diets – fruit and vegetables – that can be hard to digest and can create painful gas.
6) Poor Digestion and Absorption of Foods
The inability to fully break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the gut/colon can lead to the build up of bad bacteria (organisms that thrive in oxygen starved environments) which feeds off undigested food matter and can create excessive amounts of gas which creates intestinal pain and can be extremely painful.
The gut is sometimes referred to as the “second brain” on account of the fact that it has the second highest number of nerve endings in the body after the brain. High stress levels increase the hormones: adrenaline and cortisol in the blood, which long term, have a damaging affect upon immune system functioning (not to mention the cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems as well).
However if lifestyle changes such as improved sleep, changes to the diet, exercise and meditation doesn’t help, then it’s not “All In The Mind.”
8) Long Term Anti-Biotic and Steroid Use
Long term prescription drug use can have an adverse effect upon the immune system and the bodies ability to create friendly gut bacteria as the anti-biotics kill friendly as well as harmful bacteria. The effects of anti biotics can permanently kill off friendly bacteria in the gut without them ever re-establishing themselves again.
8) Heavy Metals and Chemical Toxicity
A high heavy metals body burden – whether in the gut, liver, gall bladder, central nervous system or brain – creates the perfect conditions for pathogen build up. Heavy metals toxicity alters immune system functioning and allows pathogens such as candida yeast, bad bacteria, parasites and viruses, to get a foothold causing a myriad of symptoms.
Chemical toxicity impacts and disrupts hormone functioning – hormones are the chemical messengers that regulate bodily functions – which in turn impacts immune response.
There is evidence that heavy metals and pathogens co-exist and become bound to each other and that heavy metals like mercury and lead, for example, dampen or reduce the activity of pathogens.
When heavy metals are removed through chelation therapy the activity of these pathogens increase or flare up initially and symptoms like abdominal pain will worsen for a short period. Pathogen activity can be measured by the level of metabolites found in the blood.
Temporary Methods to Reduce Abdominal Pain
My lower abdominal pain occurred mainly around the ileocecal valve.
This valve sits between where the small intestine joins the large intestine.
It would flare up if I consumed things like gassy drinks or ate grains – in particular wheat and corn – I’d have to massage the area to provide some relief.
I wish I had known then that there are simple and effective ways to help provide quick relief for my abdominal pain:
1) Taking a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in warm water will help neutralise stomach acids, and eliminate trapped air in the gut which can cause a lot of pain. (It is also a natural anti fungal but shouldn’t be taken for long periods of time).
2) Taking digestive enzymes (2 to 3 times the typical dose) will also help break down foods in the gut that you may be having problems with digesting, (or if eaten inadvertently) particularly if you know you have an issue with for example the main offenders: milk proteins or wheat or gluten (the protein part of wheat).
3) If you have problems digesting fats then taking lipase or ox bile digestive enzymes 20 minutes before (or straight after) a meal can be an effective aid in relieving abdominal pain caused by incomplete digestion of fats.
Bile is released from the gall bladder into the intestines to break down fats. Sluggish bile production however can create issues for people with high states of toxicity whether from chemical and heavy metals toxicity or from the pathogen overload they cause. This is because the bile liquid becomes sticky and sludgy like treacle as it becomes bound up with heavy metals and yeasts/bad bacteria.
Anecdotally, I once had a call from a nurse who remembered seeing the inside of a patients removed gall bladder. She confirmed what I had read about – the issue of bile becoming sludgy instead of liquid. They needed to take a scrubbing brush to the insides of the gall bladder to remove the thick dark sludge that had formed inside the organ!
Whilst over the counter medications and the tips above provide some relief and a temporary fix, it might be better to resolve the issue by investigating the chemical and heavy metal toxins that create the perfect environment for pathogens like bad bacteria and candida yeast to build up and thrive. This build up will alter the bacterial balance in the gut, negatively impact digestion and lead to many symptoms associated with chronic fatigue including irritable bowel, intestinal pain, food allergies and intolerance’s.
So, whilst for many, changing the diet from high carbohydrate (most grains, sugar, fruit, alcohol) to low carb and increasing the level of fats and proteins in the diet is often enough to resolve the issue, for many others it isn’t.
With longer term cases of abdominal pain, this reflects a need to change the bodies internal “terrain” and in particular that of the bacterial balance of the gut. The bacterial balance of the gut is crucial for the efficient and healthy digestion and absorption of foods.
In the absence of any long term relief, for example, from using pro-biotics to re-populate the bowel with healthy bacteria, or reducing the carbs in the diet, there may be a deeper level of toxicity which needs to be addressed before the body can rid itself of the symptoms we know as abdominal pain and irritable bowel.
For more info on how to resolve your abdominal pain and treat the toxins causing it see: How to Cure Your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome