Is IBS genetic?

By: Carla Meine CFNC

| November 24, 2021

IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is a very common gastrointestinal disorder that affects 10-15% of the U.S. population. But is IBS genetic?

What is IBS?

IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder. In fact, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, IBS is the most common disease diagnosed by gastroenterologists and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care physicians. However, many people who suffer from IBS have not been officially diagnosed.

IBS means the intestines do not work normally. This malfunction of the intestines causes abdominal pain, and it is usually associated with constipation, diarrhea, or constipation alternating with diarrhea. 

Symptoms of IBS

Common symptoms of IBS include:

Essentially, IBS is marked by abdominal pain that is associated with altered bowel habits. For some, this might be mild. It might not interfere with normal activities and daily life. For others, however, IBS symptoms may be severe. It may force limited activities and the need to constantly be near a bathroom.

Is IBS the same as IBD?

Although they both involve the bowels, IBS is not the same as IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease. IBD is more serious. It causes inflammation in the digestive tract and results in more serious complications. 

Is IBS genetic? 

Genetics has been suggested by medical experts as a potential cause of IBS, but so far a definite hereditary link has not been found. 

IBS is not inherited. It is not contagious, and it is not cancerous. IBS can develop after episodes of gastroenteritis. It occurs more often in women than men, and onset usually happens before the age of 35 in about half of all cases. IBS is found in somewhere between 5-20% of children. (For additional statistics, read this article.) 

What causes IBS?

Medical professionals remain unsure about the exact causes of IBS. It’s believed to result from a combination of abnormal gastrointestinal (GI) tract movements and a disruption in the communication between the brain and the GI tract. 

Some believe that IBS is caused by dietary allergies or food sensitivities. Although this is yet to be definitively proven by the medical community, I have seen many clients keep their IBS symptoms in remission by restricting foods that cause irritation.

How to treat IBS

There are many things you can do to help soothe or reduce IBS symptoms. Here are some of the best ways to treat IBS:

Add fiber to your diet. Fiber promotes regular bowel movements, which will help reduce constipation. Add fiber gradually. It may initially worsen symptoms. Look for foods with more soluble fiber, which means it takes longer to digest. These include beans, barley, peas, apples, carrots, etc.

Reduce stress and anxiety levels. Feelings of stress and anxiousness can cause IBS flare-ups. Regular exercise can help manage and reduce stress, along with getting regular and restful sleep.

Avoid caffeine as well as soda. Increase your water intake.

Eat balanced meals. Also, eat smaller meals to help lessen the incidence of cramping and diarrhea.

Food Journaling for IBS

There are many important diet and lifestyle changes you can make that will help control both the frequency and severity of IBS symptoms. If you think you suffer from IBS, please visit your doctor. 

The first thing many doctors will suggest is to keep a food diary. At More Than Healthy, we have developed a Food Journaling program. This is the best way to figure out which foods trigger your symptoms. This is very individual to you, and what works best for someone else might not work best for you. 

Foods that doctors suggest those with IBS avoid often include dairy products, fatty foods, and foods high in sugar. This aligns directly with our elimination protocol we coach our clients on here at More Than Healthy.  

Through the MTH protocol, you will eliminate potential trigger foods and slowly add them back in. As you journal each day, you will be able to ‘connect the dots’ and determine which foods are irritating your system.

A Few Additional Tips for IBS

In my experience with clients who struggle with bowel issues, the elimination protocol is the very best way to help control symptoms. For example, it is common for my clients to start at Level 1, and after 4-6 weeks, they begin to see their IBS symptoms subside. 

Once we ‘clear the muddy waters’ and identify what is causing their pain, we’ll start supplementing with probiotics and prebiotics. But, the very best “medicine” I’ve found for identifying and controlling pain related to IBS is food. 

You can find some wonderful recipes that are both healthy and delicious on the More Than Healthy website. The Maca Smoothie would be a great go-to for someone struggling with IBS issues. 

The Good News

The good news is that there are many things you can do to keep your IBS symptoms in check. You can make choices that will help control this frustrating and inconvenient syndrome. Is IBS genetic? Most likely the answer is no. Is there something you can do to help control your IBS? Absolutely.