Bloated? How to Know if it’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Having gas and bloating after eating? Here’s how to tell if it’s irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)


We asked two experts for their advice on dealing with tummy troubles like gas and bloating.

The Naturopath Says

To pinpoint a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), we look for symptoms that include altered frequency or consistency in your stools and abdominal pain and discomfort that last at least three days a month for three consecutive months. Naturopathic medicine offers effective treatments, such as identifying problematic foods, optimizing digestion and managing stress.

It’s important to be aware that other gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), lactose intolerance and parasitic infections, can cause similar symptoms. A diet high in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) – a collection of short-chain carbohydrates found in certain foods, including wheat, garlic and even avocado – may not be digested or absorbed well, which may be problematic for some people with IBS. I may advise people who have IBS to consider trying a low-FODMAPs diet.

There is also the possibility of something called dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Intestinal infections, food intolerances and/or sensitivities and frequent use of antibiotics are some common causes of dysbiosis. Certain herbal remedies, like black walnut and goldenseal (taken in liquid extract or capsule form), can be prescribed to kill bad bacteria, yeast or parasites. In addition, probiotics, dietary recommendations and other supplements and therapies are commonly recommended to promote a healthy digestive tract.

Dr. Renata Taravski is a naturopathic doctor with Lococo Wellness Clinic in Hamilton, ON.

The Dietitian Says

Maybe. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that can negatively impact the motility of the bowel and even how your brain interprets sensations from the bowel. Symptoms typically include minor to severe abdominal pain, often accompanied by constipation, diarrhea or a combination of both. IBS can be extremely unpredictable, and its symptoms and severity may vary greatly from person to person. A physician will perform a blood or stool test or a colonoscopy to properly diagnose IBS.

The exact causes of IBS are uncertain, which can make treating the condition tricky, so a multipronged approach usually works best. A physician can prescribe a variety of medications to manage some of the symptoms. By working with a registered dietitian, individuals who suffer from IBS can further identify certain types of foods that can lead to flare-ups. Limiting or eliminating these foods altogether should be done with the help of a professional to ensure that you’re still getting adequate nutrients from other foods and avoiding deficiencies.

Chris Hyde is a registered dietitian with Legacy Sport Medicine in Winnipeg, MB.