In this nutrition bite, we’ll be discussing the three most common chronic digestive issues, and what to do if you think you have one or more of them!
Around the world, millions of people are suffering from excessive bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and chronic digestive discomfort.
If you’re one of them, you know that this goes far beyond a simple post-feast “food baby” or a small case of food poisoning. These symptoms occur on and off for months (or years!), and can get so severe they are debilitating, significantly impacting your quality of life.
And yet…most people are too embarrassed to talk about them!
We’re here to tell you that 1) you’re not alone, 2) it’s not your fault, and 3) with some effort and patience, it CAN get better.
The first step is figuring out which chronic digestive issue (or issues) you are dealing with. The three most common chronic digestive issues are the following…
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Our gut lining, or wall, is incredibly thin (As in, a single-cell-layer thin!). In fact, everyone’s gut is a little “leaky,” but Leaky Gut Syndrome is when our gut wall malfunctions, allowing bacteria and toxins to leak into our bloodstream. Another name for this is “increased gut permeability.”
Symptoms of a leaky gut vary, but common experiences include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, excessive flatulence, nausea, indigestion and food intolerances.
Leaky gut syndrome is usually the first red flag that something is wrong with our gut. If not detected and addressed early enough, it can lead to more severe digestive issues, including SIBO and IBS.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
As its name implies, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a digestive issue that affects the small intestine. SIBO can occur if bacteria that normally grow in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract spread to the small intestine.
Symptoms of SIBO include weight loss, malabsorption (and as a result, possible deficiencies in iron and/or vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12), mucosal inflammation, diarrhea, indigestion, bloating, cramps, and changes in bowel movements. 
Typically, a SIBO diagnosis can be obtained via a breath test given by your doctor, who will likely prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria and suggest a number of dietary changes to treat your symptoms.
Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t always work. And even if they do, antibiotics may wipe out the “bacterial overgrowth” for the moment, but the issue with SIBO is not having “bad” bacteria in your body like an infection…
It’s that bacteria that live peacefully in other parts of our digestive tract (and are supposed to be there) are ending up in the wrong place. We don’t necessarily want the bacteria gone from our body; we want it gone from our small intestine.
Also, because antibiotics target many types of bacteria, there is the added concern that they’ll wipe out too much of the good stuff, leading you to have even more problems!
SIBO is rarely the root of the issue; it’s almost always a symptom of a bigger health condition. Curing SIBO permanently must include uncovering the underlying problem causing the small intestine to be capable of hosting the bacteria that belongs elsewhere in our body in addition to finding ways to provide SIBO sufferers with temporary relief.
Thus, antibiotics should be viewed as a last resort, not the starting point, and they should never be the only treatment.
A good doctor will gladly work with you to create a safe and realistic plan of action to rid your body of a case of SIBO.
Whether you end up using antibiotics or not, rebalancing your gut microbiome through a specialized nutrient dense diet is vital to minimizing the likelihood of a SIBO recurrence.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic digestive disorder affecting the large intestine. As stated by Monash University, it “is a very common gastrointestinal disorder that affects 1 in 7 people. Once known as ‘spastic colon’, abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea or a mixture of both) are key features of IBS.” 
An IBS diagnosis is usually given to people experiencing chronic bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, cramping, and excessive gas, for whom no other diagnosis is appropriate. Additional symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, headaches, anxiety, depression, and muscle pains.
The cause of IBS remains unclear, but many people with IBS have an unbalanced gut microbiome, or “dysbiosis,” making it challenging for their body to digest specific foods, and causing a number of food sensitivities that, when consumed, trigger their painful symptoms.
So what can you do about them?
While SIBO and leaky gut can be healed with time and proper treatment, IBS is something most people must learn to manage for life. That said, the symptoms of all three digestive issues can be significantly reduced.
A gastroenterologist and a dietitian who specializes in gut health are key to obtaining the correct diagnosis and effective strategies for managing and treating gastrointestinal issues, but the best advocate for your health is you.
While there are some universal guidelines, the “right” treatment for digestive issues varies from person to person, so it’s crucial to educate yourself and monitor your symptoms to the best of your ability.
For more about these common chronic digestive issues, as well as how to begin your path to diagnosis and healing NATURALLY…
Grab your copy of this complimentary ebook, Boosting Immunity Through Gut Health.
Discover what inflammatory gut stressors to avoid, what daily habits you can modify to ease symptoms, related conditions you may have or be at risk for, and so much more.
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start improving your health today!
 Dukowicz, A. C., Lacy, B. E., & Levine, G. M. (2007). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: a comprehensive review. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 3(2), 112–122.