Discover the Hidden Culprits Behind Your IBS Symptoms

Jayne Reynolds

I am a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist® passionate about restoring the body's health, balance, and wellbeing. I get down to the root cause of what's happening in the body so that it can be addressed instead of chasing symptoms.
Published: April 23, 2021
sugar may cause IBS symptoms

Earlier, in our IBS blog series, I shared how your digestive tract works, what’s normal and what’s not, what your poop is trying to tell you, and what scary things you should rule out. In today’s post, we’ll take a look at three common causes behind your IBS symptoms and five hidden culprits that you may not have considered. Many of them are modifiable lifestyle choices. You may be able to alleviate some of your symptoms by making simple changes.

Causes of IBS Symptoms:

There seem to be three primary culprits behind IBS symptoms:

  1. Lack of dietary fiber
  2. Food allergies
  3. Stress
plant based high fiber foods

Lack of Dietary Fiber

We’ve talked often about how a lack of dietary fiber is frequently the cause behind many western diseases, especially those that impact digestive health.

The recommended daily serving of fiber is 25-35g per day. To put it in perspective, most adults get 10-15g per day.

We find fiber in: 

  1. Grains (wheat, teff, barley, quinoa, oats, and brown rice)
  2. Fruits (apples, avocados, blackberries, blueberries, and grapefruit)
  3. Vegetables(acorn squash, green peas, collard greens, artichokes, butternut squash, parsnips, broccoli, and carrots)
  4. Legumes (navy beans, dried peas, lentils, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, etc.)
  5. Hypoallergenic fiber like psyllium (Metamucil) or PHGG PHGG is a natural, soluble fiber derived from the guar plant. It is low in FODMAPs, which I’ll discuss with you next week.

In general, fiber helps people with constipation more than those with diarrhea. However, psyllium is bulk-forming. Therefore, it helps those with diarrhea by soaking up the liquid in their digestive tract, forming a soft, solid mass. Be careful to avoid your food sensitivities when choosing your fiber sources.

food allergens

Food Allergies

We’ve spoken often about the role that food allergies and food sensitivities play in several IBS symptoms. Two-thirds of patients with IBS have at least one food intolerance; some have multiple.

Foods high in carbohydrates or fats, alcohol, and hot spices most often cause symptoms. Dairy and grains, especially wheat, are leading culprits.

Twenty patients with IBS who had no success with standard therapy did an IgG food sensitivity test. They eliminated their trigger foods and then did allergy rotations and probiotic supplements as a treatment plan. One hundred percent of them reported improvements in their symptoms.

Stressed out woman at computer


The autonomic nervous system controls all your automatic functions. It’s divided into two parts; the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls your fight or flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system regulates your rest and digest. They can’t both be online at the same time.

If you are stressed out, it affects your digestion. Your body needs to protect your vital organs during seasons of stress. To do that, it shunts all the resources away from your gut. And we all know that being exposed to stressful, frightening, or traumatic experiences can impact how quickly food moves through your digestive tract. It can either speed it up or shut it down. Those who have IBS are more prone to this and often tend to experience more depression and anxiety.

Hidden Culprits Behind IBS Symptoms

Throughout my gastro journey, I discovered that several underlying conditions might be contributing to my symptoms. And while some of these technically contribute to infectious processes, you may not yet have explored whether or not these are making your gastro symptoms worse.

  1. Hormones
    1. Notable fluctuations in hormone levels, such as drops in progesterone and estrogen, can lead to symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, and more.
  2. Histamines
    1. Histamine is a chemical messenger secreted by mast cells in response to inflammation, infections, and allergies. It plays an integral role in digestion, and high histamines can cause diarrhea, stomach aches, cramps, bloating, flatulence, reflux, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting. Foods high in histamine or that release histamine can make symptoms worse. (Rider, 2019)
  3. Oxalates
    1. Kidney problems are usually associated with high oxalates, but did you know that they can also cause gut issues? High oxalates can cause painful crystals to build up in your gut wall and lead to bloating and other symptoms.
  4. Low Stomach Acid
    1. Stomach Acid plays a variety of roles, one of which is to protect you from infections. H.Pylori can establish itself when stomach acid is low, leading to constipation and diarrhea. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth can also occur when you have low stomach acid.
  5. A Diet High in Refined Sugar 
    1. When you eat a lot of sugar, your blood sugar rises quickly, and a signal is sent to your digestive tract to slow down. Because glucose is primarily absorbed in your duodenum and jejunum, it can slow down this part of your digestion. (Murray et al., 2012) A high sugar diet can result in slow transit time through your digestive tract.

What’s Next?

For most people, minor lifestyle changes will make a big difference. However, there are times when the problem runs deeper, and you need professional help. If you’ve tried to figure this out on your own, or you feel like you’re lost in a maze of information and aren’t sure which path to take, don’t give up hope.

We have a range of different approaches that will help you figure out the root cause of your dysfunction and stop the cycle of sickness so you can feel better now. Book your free 30-minute Breakthrough Strategy Session today.



  1. 13 Tools That Will Break The Cycle of IBS and Set You Free - […] last week’s blog post I shared that lack of dietary fiber can be a culprit behind IBS symptoms. To…

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