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IBS – why digging in to the role histamine plays may help understand what's at the root of it all

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

The global stats say a lot – on average, about 11% of a country's population is diagnosed with IBS. In Canada, the rate is much higher, averaging at 18%. Knowing that it can take up to four years to get a diagnosis, there is a question on that number, with musings that it might indeed be higher.

One thing is for sure: IBS can really hamper your day to day existence, interfering with life, impacting your work + school.

What if you knew that at the root of IBS, there may lie histamine troubles?

What is IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a diagnosis centred around intestinal discomfort. This can be related to motility issues, the rate at which the food you eat moves through your digestive tract. It can also be related to the sensations coming from the gut itself – how your body/brain interprets the signals your gut is sending.

This can look like abdominal pain that is hard to pinpoint; it can also look like inconsistent bowel movements that are either predominantly constipation (IBS-C) or predominantly diarrhea (IBS-D) in consistency. Oh, and to add further complications, there can be a prevalance of both constipation and diarrhea, sometimes in the same movement (IBS-M).

Those with this diagnosis often name check fatigue as a side effect. There is a high correlation with imbalanced moods in the diagnosis of IBS: estimates are as high as 40-60% of those diagnosed who struggle with anxiety or mental health.

There is a lot of overlap as well with IBS and the symptoms reported by those who are diagnosed with SIBO: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Keep your eyes peeled to the blog here; we'll be doing a special post just on SIBO later on this month.

What does it look like?

When looking for a diagnosis of IBS, the main symptoms are:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Abnormal stool frequency

  • Urgency

  • Cramps

  • Bloating

  • Abnormal stool from straining at defecation

  • Feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your bowels

  • Mucus in stool (1)

First things first: Get. It. Checked.

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself 'now this sounds like me!', we urge you to first check in with your Medical Team. This is not something to be messed with; digestive troubles can seem so benign, when in fact, there can be other serious underlying issues. Your doctor can help rule out other things; as well, a diagnosis can help figure your way out of the tunnel of digestive ailments, or any mood related troubles.

What if it has something to do with histamine?

Remember our sink analogy from last week's blog? Keep this in mind, as you read through this blog post.

  • Nausea with or without vomiting

  • Heartburn/GERD (reflux)

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Food allergies and sensitivities

If you take a look on the same list of symptoms, you'll also see that anxiety and concentration or memory problems are there under Brain and Nervous System symptoms. Could IBS be an indicator that histamine are contributing? Could IBS be one of the ways your body is letting you know that your sink is overflowing?

If you look at the science, when there are troubles at the gut lining, histamine is released (2). One of their tasks is to send out a signal to the brain + body that something is up at the gut lining here. There are some studies where patients diagnosed with IBS were given different medications to help alleviate some of the visceral pain felt by those with this diagnosis. One of the medications on trial? Histamine blockers or antagonists. (3)

What to do

If you are struggling with the symptoms listed above, make sure to check in with your Doctor. If the diagnosis of IBS shows up, it would be interesting to delve into whether or not histamine are contributing in your specific case.

Whether IBS is a constellation of symptoms, or an expression of excess histamine at the gut, be it due to a lack of DAO enzymatic function, an imbalance in your microbiome, or that of leaky gut troubles and the involvement of your immune system, one thing is for sure. It ain't easy to move through your days with this diagnosis.

Addressing histamine issues can be one of the pieces of the puzzle in helping you move through the diagnosis of IBS, though. Dietary support + reinforcing gut health can be a brilliant complement to other modalities that address and help manage the IBS.

Our aim and wish for you is that your days to be filled with a bit more ease. Addressing histamine intolerance or mast cell activation troubles can be one of those ways of reducing the internal stress burden, and creating calm, especially in the diagnosis of IBS.


Want to learn more about histamine issues, and how it can play in to your symptoms you experience on a daily basis? Join our online community by clicking here. Loads of printable resources, a Master Class on the Histamine Connection. It's free to join!

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