Irritable bowel syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition of the large intestine – syndrome means a collection of symptoms.


Signs of IBS can include alternating periods of constipation and diarrhoea, pain, tenderness in the abdomen, gas, bloating. It is basically a warning sign of a nutritional imbalance and usually not a serious condition.

Causes of IBS can include:

Insufficient nutrient-dense diet

Low protein, minerals and fibre. Adequate protein is crucial for the colon because it is a rapidly growing tissue and must continually renew itself. Zinc is needed for protein synthesis and for the production of hydrochloric acid as is vitamin B1. Fibre helps move food through the intestine faster, preventing putrefaction, auto-intoxication and also helps to synthesise certain vitamins in the intestine. It also provides food for the good bacteria in the intestines.

Too much sugar

Sugar in the form of sweets, too many fruits and juices can trigger candida overgrowth or dysbiosis – an imbalance in gut flora where the bad outnumbers the good. Overgrowth of candida is not only due to excessive sugar but also copper imbalance, the use of birth control pills, antibiotics or steroid medication.

Food allergies

These can trigger symptoms as the body becomes more sensitive to certain foods due to the above causes and an increased permeable gut.

Poor food habits

Overeating, drinking with meals, hurried meals, combining foods poorly all slow down digestion, causing an insufficient release of enzymes allowing poorly digested food to pass into the colon where food can ferment and putrefy.


(As it dries up digestive secretions leading to further intestinal permeability). The intestines are often affected by our emotions and psychological stress can trigger pain, ulcers, diarrhoea and so on.


This should be ruled out as a cause. Although symptoms can be worse if parasites are the main issue, some can be similar to amoebic infection and giardia for example – usually caught from contaminated water or food. However, at Hair Analysis UK, we assume that most people have at least some parasites even if symptoms are mild or non-existent. From our experience we see people expel minor parasites just by following a mineral balancing programme and making the body an inhospitable environment for them.

Toxic metals

Many such as cadmium, mercury, arsenic, lead and others can interfere with zinc, selenium and other critical minerals involved in protein synthesis and the digestive process.


Dietary adjustments

Working out trigger foods for the individual is critical to avoid IBS flare-ups. Once the intestines are inflamed and irritated certain foods can make things worse. Food rotation will help reduce food sensitivities.

The most common foods that will irritate an individual are wheat in all forms, dairy products, soy products and eggs (sometimes) and gluten. Sweetened products, sugars, fruit or juices should be avoided for a period of time and even some or most grains to allow the intestines time to heal. At Hair Analysis UK, I always suggest a digestive aid such as Enzaid or GB3 from the lab which are gentle but effective.

For individuals with severe symptoms, an elimination diet may be required. For example, just eating some plain basmati rice with turkey and a few limited cooked vegetables for a few days to a few weeks and then adding back in foods one at a time. Some helpful remedies may be also needed to calm the inflammation and provide extra support.

Hair mineral analysis

The above dietary solutions would go hand in hand with the correction of the mineral imbalances we find on a hair mineral analysis test or tissue test. What we see on a test is what we have found is happening within the cells of the body. Indicators on a hair test of IBS are

Imbalanced phosphorus and or zinc levels - Phosphorus levels of less than 13mg% or greater than 20mg% indicates impaired protein utilisation. This would affect the intestinal lining and bowel function if the intestinal lining is not getting replaced and renewed fast enough due to poor protein synthesis. Zinc is needed for this process of protein synthesis so a low or high level indicates an issue and low zinc is also associated with emotional instability and poor response to stress.

Copper imbalance - Copper interferes with the activity of zinc-dependent enzymes meaning that excessive copper can disrupt the bonds of protein structures. It can also encourage the overgrowth of yeast in the intestines and a high copper or hidden copper toxicity can increase anxiety and fear affecting the stress levels of the individual.

Cadmium and mercury toxicity - This can also displace zinc resulting in a zinc deficiency. If cadmium is elevated it can deplete zinc even if the hair zinc level is within normal range.

Low energy and a slow oxidation rate. With low energy levels and a slow metabolism, toxic waste and general detoxification is slow in the body and we see most IBS sufferers needing support and strengthening of the adrenals and thyroid.

Low sodium to potassium ratio - A low ratio on a hair test indicates excessive protein catabolism or breakdown. This can cause digestive disturbances. It also indicates allergies, a condition which can also be indicated by an all four lows pattern – calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium all below the ideal level.

Low LEVELS of sodium and potassium - This is associated with reduced levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

A very high calcium level - This is associated with ongoing stress and a high calcium to magnesium ratio is associated with a lifestyle issue that is no longer working well for the individual causing additional stress on the body.

With the above information, we can design a programme to correct these underlying imbalances creating more energy within the body, to detox and heal tissue. IBS responds very well to the mineral balancing programme and not only can this be resolved but other symptoms such as fear, anxiety, sleep issues, food allergies, low energy, chronic fatigue, acne and more.

In conclusion, most cases of IBS can respond well with nutritional and dietary changes recommended in a scientific and holistic manner.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Forest Row, East Sussex, RH18
Written by Cressida Reese, Hair Mineral Analysis Practitioner, Nutritional Consultant
Forest Row, East Sussex, RH18

Author of Green Smoothie Joy Books on Amazon.
Paleo Diet and Nutritional Balancing Practitioner
Advanced training in Hair Mineral Analysis and client of Analytical Research Laboratories, USA

Show comments

Find a nutritionist dealing with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

All nutrition professionals are verified

All nutrition professionals are verified