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I may have solved the mystery of IBS


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I am a retired doctor and believe I may have solved the mystery of IBS – – at least in my own case. A bold claim, I know, and what I have to say might not necessarily apply to other sufferers.  I simply ask you to read what follows, and see if it has relevance to your own case.

My IBS (in someone who had been previously healthy) was of sudden onset several years ago, with severe cramps, massive diarrhoea, pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, together making for a handicap to the extent that I was afraid to travel, and sometimes couldn’t even go out. I went to specialists, had endless investigations, had all kinds of medication and diets, also explored the alternative market, including homeopathy, relaxation and even hypnotism. Nothing helped.

I did notice, however, that when I had an especially severe attack it was usually preceded by gastric symptoms, eg churning, acidity, indigestion. At times my stomach seemed to be whirling round like a washing machine – and shortly later the bowel symptoms would start. And from this I have developed my tentative theory. It goes like this - IBS does not have its origin in the bowel, but elsewhere, and rather than ‘irritable bowel’ it is a case of ‘irritated bowel’. The symptoms of IBS (at least in my own case) result from the leeching of excess gastric acids downward into the lower bowel.

It should be noted that gastric acid, especially in the wrong place, is an exceedingly corrosive substance. A drop placed in the palm of your hand can cause blistering. Imagine the havoc it could wreak on the delicate bowel lining.

The core of the treatment, therefore, was to counter the excess gastric acid. To put it briefly, I embarked on a regime of oral antacids – mainly, a large drink of sodium bicarbonate regularly - and I have been essentially symptom-free since. If I get any recurrence of symptoms I take more bicarb, but only if the symptoms don’t subside by themselves. as I don't want to get hooked on the medication, simple though it is.

So there is it – give it a try, and I would very much like to hear from anyone who wants to respond.


Edwin, Brussels

[email protected]








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Hi Edwin, your story resonates a bit with me because my IBS is always preceded by an attack of Gastritis, that's where the acid irritates the lining of my stomach.  So for me my approach to dealing with this problem is contolling the Gastritis by not allowing my stomach to remain empty for too long, by eating regular meals with no more than 4 to 5 hours in between which would be about 5 to 6 small meals a day and cutting out acidic foods that I know trigger the Gastritis. 

Also I no longer think that I am good, when my Gastritis clears up and return to the trigger foods.  I choose to live now like I am a recovering "addict', so I know I can never return to those triggers. 

Also I tried the Bicarbonate but that bothered my stomach.  So now I keep Nexium handy, but I do not take it all the time, only when I have a flare of the Gastritis and just for about a week on the 40mg with a bland/soft diet, seemed to heal the Gastritis.   I will do this because in the past I did not want to take the medication and that is what I realized caused the Gastritis and IBS to spiral out of control, so much so that my last flare of the IBS continues into the 3rd year now.  The symptoms have just decreased in intensity but are always here. 


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That's interesting. I am glad it worked for you and you are much better now.

Back last winter (started Dec 6th) I began to have GERD symptoms. I took herbal bitters, chewable calcium citrate tablets with D3, licorice (DGL) powder daily, and a homeopathic remedy. Slowly the GERD disappeared over 4 months and I stopped dosing. Since Spring this year my IBS has been a little better and I've had many more good days with one whole month symptom free at one stage, then usually two weeks or so at a time.  But I also had a few bad flare-ups of IBS-D.

I do often still take a "Rennie" tablet at night before bed (that's calcium carbonate plus magnesium carbonate.) That never irritates my IBS even though it contains magnesium and if I take that when I am in a good phase it makes no difference to the IBS, and doesn't even make things worse if I take it in a flare-up. The dose of mag. is quite small. But it just feels good to do to make sure my tummy is fine for sleeping, as I have dinner about 7-8 hours before, and a small snack in the evening about 3 hrs before sleep.

I brush my teeth with bicarb. of soda before using my toothpaste. I think it helps whiten my teeth a bit. But I hadn't thought to drink it, except for the low stomach acid test, which I did -and failed! -back in December last year. According to the test I had LOW stomach acid, but I didn't necessarily believe it as I never have undigested food in stool and don't seem to have any problem digesting proteins. So I kind of ignored that.

I am not, at present, getting any acidic stomach feelings at all, and no GERD. If I had too much acid, wouldn't I get stomach symptoms as well? I don't.

It's all flaring up down below though.

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Esjie, based on all I've read, IBS is just a group of symptoms BUT has many different causes and affects each person differently, hence the reason for the confusion.  So if you don't get acid related problems then perhaps yours has another cause... 

The following excerpt is taken from IBS Treatment Center:

"A doctor that specializes in IBS knows that IBS isn’t a single definable condition, as described in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Instead, it’s a label for a broad spectrum of digestive issues. And there are different solutions to the different issues lumped together under the IBS label."  

They went on to give some causes - IBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth), Probiotics (or a lack of good bacteria), Gluten intolerance, Inflammation, Post-Infectious IBS, Leaky Gut Syndrome, Food Allergies and Sensitivities, Motility Disorders, Gut/Brain Axis, EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), Genetics/Inheritance, Stress. 


Edited by brownin
To correct spelling
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Hello again:

Brownin, yes - I am sure that controlling your diet is a large part of the solution. A recent 'British Medical Journal' review concludes that the risk of irritable bowel disease is greater with a diet that includes highly processed foods.  So beware - a cardinal rule is never to eat anything that comes in a box with a picture on the front!



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Edwin, I basically agree that we should be eating a healthy diet of "proper" food.

But when I first started with IBS (some slight inklings late 2017, then a week long bout spring 2018, then it came back spring 2020) -I was eating the most healthy diet indeed, and had been eating the same for at least 30 years. Fresh organic vegetables, and salads, eggs, fish,  lentils, beans, a little cheese sometimes, fresh fruit every morning, nuts, seeds, healthy fiber, potatoes, brown rice, wholemeal artisan seed bread, real butter. All home cooked, and I rarely ate anything else, except some chocolate as a treat, or a piece of carrot cake or similar.

I would love to be able to eat "my food" again. I do keep trying and sometimes get away with very small portions for a day or so. But I can no more return to that diet than I can return to where my gut health was in 2016-7.

When my IBS flares badly almost all those foods would run straight through me. Yes, I peel and boil potatoes, and try every day to eat some vegetables, But in a bad flare like today even a tablespoon of well-steamed Bok Choy and some white rice is a challenge.

Two foods I can usually tolerate in a bad flare is processed white rice and toasted ciabatta bread (white and store bought. I presume also processed to some extent.) No not great nutrition but stops my upper belly aching with hunger while my lower belly disagrees with everything decent.

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