When you’re trying to figure out what caused your Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you may be looking for just one trigger, or defining event. However, neither dis-ease, nor healing is usually that simple. Let’s go through a bit of a process here – stay with me, it’s useful, I promise – and then we’ll get the piece about what factors can cause IBS.

Is it possible to heal from gut disorders – even severe IBS (or widespread Crohn’s like I had)? Absolutely. But you need to realize that holistic healing is a long, winding path and there are no quick-fixes or silver bullets (like in drug therapy) that will get you there.

Start with a good foundation

The initial phase of your healing may take the longest and produce the least ‘visible’ results because you have to build your foundation first. You have to start at the roots of your illness and just like building a house, laying the groundwork and pouring the foundation don’t look like much, but they are of crucial importance. For example, let’s say you were born by Caesarean and never received that crucial first implantation of beneficial gut bacteria (as you were squeezed through your mother’s vagina). Or your mother did not have much good bacteria to pass onto you. And then perhaps you were given antibiotics; which was never followed by probiotics.

So now, in addition to not having a healthy microbiome in your gut, you’re actually teeming with bad bacteria and yeast (Candida). Treating and resolving such an infection can take anywhere from three months to a year. But once you get that infection under control, you’ll see improvement. And by the time you completely eradicate that infection, you’ll probably have automatically eliminated your diarrhea, constipation or spastic colon.

You will also have restored the integrity of your intestinal walls, mucosal lining, and bacterial flora throughout your gut. Therefore, your digestive and absorptive abilities will now be up to normal. Because you have treated your whole body holistically, you will most likely have cleared up other health issues as well. And by healing your past and present emotional woundings, you will now be creating a job and relationships that support you as a healthy, vibrant person – not as a sick, wounded person.

The holistic path

But remember that stress is a huge component of IBS and anything that causes you stress is not going to help you heal. Therefore, first and foremost, you must always follow your own gut and introduce change at a pace that feels right for you.

This merges all aspects of your body/self and allows you to tread the pathway of healing together – as a multi- dimensional but unified being, with all parts relating to and supporting each other. It releases you from viewing and treating your body or your intestines as something functioning independently of you and your desires.

Subscribing to the medical model will cause you to view the malfunctioning parts of your body with impatience and annoyance, even anger. If you see your body in this manner, you’ll just want to feed it the right pill and have it perform properly, damnit! But your body is not a machine, you can’t separate the parts from the whole. And what place has healing in the midst of anger and resentment?

The causes of IBS

I believe the causative factors of IBS are varied. If you go back over your own personal health history, I think you’ll find a mix of the following damaging events, that singly or in combination have degraded the health of your gut and immune system:

Vaccination – childhood, adult, flu vaccines, etc. Causes direct damage to bacterial flora of the gut and long-term, immune system damage.

Antibiotic Use – any antibiotic therapy that is not followed by full-spectrum probiotic therapy causes lasting, pervasive damage to the bacterial flora of your gastrointestinal tract (from mouth to anus), which in turn leads to increased infestation of yeast, parasites, viruses, bad bacteria and other pathogens. These pathogens degrade the mucosal lining and damage the intestinal wall (symptoms include bloating, gas, inflammation, etc.), which leads to Leaky Gut Syndrome, which then triggers allergic and auto-immune response. Did you know that certain antibiotic drugs can cause ulcerative colitis all by themselves (like Novo Clindamycin)? And the pharmaceutical information that comes with these products even explicitly warns of this. Yet medical doctors continue to prescribe them and also don’t follow usage with probiotics.

Environmental and Food-borne Toxins – processed foods with preservatives, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners and flavors, nitrites and other proven toxins and carcinogens, microwaved foods, chlorine, mercury and other heavy metals, toxins contained in skin care products, shampoos, cosmetics, furniture, carpets, and the air (to name a few sources) all cause cellular and systemic damage. I have an entire chapter on this in Listen To Your IBS and I take you through every room in your house with a checklist.

Emotional Trauma or Abuse – don’t underestimate the damaging effects of abusive or traumatic emotional experiences on the body, and the gut in particular. For some of you, this may be damage from your past that was never resolved/healed, and/or ongoing emotional patterns or experiences that continue to degrade your health daily.

Parasites & Pathogenic Microorganisms – if your gut ecology is already weakened or imbalanced, travel to a foreign country or ingestion of tainted food/water can be the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’. If your bacterial flora is already imbalanced with a deficit of beneficial bacteria, then it’s very easy for parasites, yeast, bad bacteria, or fungus to flourish. These pathogens then degrade the health of your intestinal mucosal lining, which can result in decreased absorption of nutrients, bloating, spasming, inflammation and subsequent damage to your systemic health.

Each of these causative factors – including lesser factors like whether or not you were breastfed, your mother’s health while you were in utero, hereditary/genetic weaknesses, heavy metal levels in your body, mercury amalgam fillings in your teeth, pesticide exposure, etc. – will contribute in varying degrees and combinations to your particular condition.

Different people are susceptible to different factors and something that strongly affects your friend adversely, may only mildly affect you adversely. There is seldom just one factor (pathogen) in isolation that causes IBS. However, I believe each of us is capable of identifying the causative factors of our own ill health and then taking the steps that will be particularly healing to each of us.

You get to choose

You can label and define your own reality using words of positivity within a healing framework that gives you access to positive action. Instead of talking about your illness, you can talk about your healing pathway or your healing journey. This will also help you to start viewing your body as a whole, instead of as separate compartments where the parts and systems of your body function separately and independently.

Your digestive tract is not the isolated “bad” part of your body, it is merely the area where your whole-body imbalance is evidenced, or displayed first. I was once talking to Karen Stewart, the owner of NutritionWorks health store in Scottsdale, Arizona, and she said, “All illness is simply an opportunity for growth. It’s the body pointing out what you need to work on next. And the body uses the strongest parts of itself to deliver the message.” I stared at her, fascinated, as the realization of what she was saying gradually grew in me.

“Well think about it,” she said, “the body wouldn’t use its weakest part to give you the message, it wouldn’t risk its life like that, it’s going to use the strongest part.” I found her words very empowering. Instead of viewing your gut as the weak part of your body, where illness shows up first, you can view it as the strongest part of your body, willing to sacrifice itself for your growth and understanding. Regarding your gastrointestinal tract in this manner will also foster a spirit of teamwork within you and gratitude towards your gut for offering itself up for your growth and development. In her fantastic book, Mutant Message Down Under, Marlo Morgan writes:

“The Real People tribe believes that we are not random victims of ill health, that the physical body is the only means our higher level of eternal consciousness has to communicate with our personality consciousness. Slowing down the body allows us to look around and analyze the really important wounds we need to mend: wounded relationships, gaping holes in our belief system, walled-up tumors of fear, eroding faith in our Creator, hardened emotions of unforgiveness, and so on.”

When I first began healing myself, I found my healing required equal attention and resolution of both physical and emotional/spiritual/mental issues. However, I’m now at the point in my Healing Journey where symptoms I experience are rarely related to my physical body at all, but rather they are just messages, or indicators of something I need to resolve emotionally or spiritually.

As soon as I address the emotional component – for example, resolve a conflict, forgive someone, connect with and share my deepest feelings with a loved one, speak my truth, say ‘no’ where I need to, etc. – the physical symptom instantly disappears, with no physical intervention necessary.

I’ve also noticed that my body will first give me a feeling, or intuition. If I explore that and connect with my deeper self (or higher/spiritual self), and take appropriate action, the issue is resolved there. However, if I don’t, my body will then give me a mild symptom. If I ignore this, a stronger symptom, or escalation of that same symptom will occur, and so on with increasing ramifications in my physical body until I finally stop, connect with my body and my higher self (or subconscious) and receive the message or follow the pathway of emotional/spiritual healing that needs to take place. As soon as I do this, the symptom begins to heal/resolve and in many cases disappears instantly – unless I’ve allowed things to escalate to the point where physical healing is also necessary.

I invite you to examine each of these causative factors for IBS (from infancy onwards), along with all your emotional/spiritual contributors and then offer gratitude to your precious gut; for sticking with you, not giving up, and trying its best to bring you into wholeness.

What Causes IBS?

24 thoughts on “What Causes IBS?

  • I believe that trichothecene mold toxins in foods as well as in buildings have much more of a negative effect on the gut than has been understood so far.

    Here is an article from the agricultural literature that describes them as “exquisitely toxic to the GI tract,” for instance. But there is a pretty extensive literature on this.


    My feeling about this is that in some cases, exposure to environmental mycotoxins occurred in the past, and that once people get away from the exposure, detoxifying through the intestinal tract puts additional stress on it and makes things worse (even though in general getting the toxins out of the system is still a good thing in the long run).

    I have seen this happen many times, with people recovering from known mold exposures.

    The other factors that I feel have not been explored nearly enough with regard to gut issues are 1) glyphosate and 2) chlorine in drinking water.

    How could those things NOT have an effect on the gut flora?

  • All VERY good points Lisa! I put these under the heading of Environmental & Food-borne Toxins, and there are literally hundreds of toxic substances. In the book I take people through their entire house with a checklist to make sure things like this are eliminated. Thanks for highlighting these though – perhaps someone will have an A-ha moment as a result.

  • Hi Jini,

    Love your stuff, knowledge, and all that you do. YouTube videos are great, that’s where I found you initially.

    Very interesting blog post! There are truly so many pieces to the puzzle of any disease, especially IBS.

    I thought I would mention though, MTHFR gene mutation and subsequent methylation issues of vitamin b-12 and folate can also lead to IBS. This metabolic issue is thought to affect a large portion of the population, and Candida overgrowth can affect a persons ability to methylate. So often methylated b-12 is talked about, but I did not see true healing until I took methylated folate. I am actually wondering if you offer your absorb plus with methylated folate? Or if you would consider manufacturing one that does? I was told to actually not take unmethylated b-12 or folic acid because my body cannot properly use it and it builds in the blood. Wondering if maybe since the folic acid found in absorb plus is from lemon peel if it’s less of a build up risk? Would you consider manufacture absorb plus for those of us with this common methylation issue?

    1. Hi Sarah,

      We actually do use a methylated version of vitamin B12 in Absorb Plus, Methylcobalamin. Regarding the Folic Acid (B9), it seems like the concern for people with MTHFR gene mutations is usually whether or not it’s a synthetic form and ours comes from organic lemon peels so it’s natural. Your doctor should be able to tell you if Absorb Plus is OK for you to consume with your specific MTHFR gene mutation.

      Kind regards,
      Customer Care

  • Jini:

    Thank you for a good article. Patients need to understand that IBS, IBD, Crohns Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, etc., are simply names for symptoms and do not represent etiological factors. That being the case, medical treatments (or alternative medical treatments) based on treating such “conditions” wholesale hold little to no hope of addressing causal factors and helping the individual recover.
    Understanding causes in each patient (and every person with Crohns or UC will have different causes behind their disease) takes time and patience. We allow an hour and a half for the patient’s initial appointment followed by a thorough physical exam and individualized lab studies for each new patient to begin the process…yet still we know that we are often only beginning to understand patients who at 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years of age or older bring many years of possible contributing and complex factors with them that need to be gradually sorted out.

    The internet (Dr. Google) offers some good information but it also sells a lot of quick fixes and cures for complex problems that leads patients to believe there is instant relief available and lacks the individualized approach that is so critical to success.

    Thorough investigation, removal of causes, implementation of
    a solid personalized program of recuperation, change of lifestyle habits, undoing damage done through prescription drugs and years of stressful living, poor eating, lack of sleep, unhappy home life or jobs, etc., all takes time and effort. The road to recovery from chronic disease can be a rocky one and requires perseverance including the understanding that uncomfortable symptoms can often accompany a successful long term recovery.

    Those willing to make the effort are usually rewarded with positive long term results, those who are impatient and jump from quick fix to quick fixe are sure to experience disappointment after disappointment.

    Healing, as your articles and books point out, occurs on multiple levels. It is a journey to be undertaken with the understanding that we evolve in almost all cases gradually into disease and likewise, with hard work and investigation we can evolve gradually out of it in most cases as well as long as we are taking the right actions.

  • Hi jini.

    I made a terrible mistake when i used some oregano oil that contained only linalool and limonene. Is that dangerous? I am going to buy a new oregano oil now, and the one from joy of the mountains is the one you recommend, but it doesnt contain the species (oreganum volgare) that you recommend, so i’m a little confused:-) thank you in advance

    Best regards jonas smidt

  • Hi Jonas, Origanum vulgare is one of a few potent species – but as long as you purchase Joy of The Mountains or NAHS brands you’ll be good.

    1. Thank you for the answer jini:) i have one more important question.. im going to asia (vietnam) for a couple of months, and everybody says that i need to get vaccinations for hepatitis A and so on, but what is your opinion on the subject? Because i know youre against vaccines in commen, but is this an exception?:)

      Sincerly jonas smidt

      1. Hello Jonas,

        You are right that Jini does not recommend vaccinations, including for travel. She has traveled all over the world safely for years without getting vaccinations. Of course, everyone needs to make that decision best for themselves, but that is what Jini has personal done and would recommend. Hope your travels go great.

        Kind Regards,
        Customer Care

        1. thank you;) i will consider it! i have one last question: i live in Denmark, and we have some of the best quality tap water in the world i hear, so do i still need to buy mineral or spring water? or can i just drink the tap water and save a ton of money?:-)

          Sincerly Jonas smidt

          1. Hello Jonas,

            That is fantastic that you have good quality water where you live. There is nothing wrong with drinking your tap water if you feel for yourself it is safe.

            Kind Regards,
            Customer Care

  • Hi Jini, I am writing to to seek your assistance; I have ileostomy since 1991 and I have recently seen blood in my stool. What would be your suggestions to stop it and where is Absorb Plus shipped from, as I am a Canadian resident in Toronto & I want to know customs etc.
    Thank you,

    1. Hello Ramesh,

      You can see Jini’s best advice we have received from other customers with an ileostomy here: https://blog.listentoyourgut.com/ive-had-my-colon-removed-and-i-have-an-ileostomy-will-absorb-plus-still-work-for-me/
      The Absorb Plus is currently shipped out of the US. However, in the near future we will have it available to ship out Canada from the Canadian website here: http://listentoyourgut.ca/
      You can currently purchase it in Canada through this website though: http://shop.finlandiapharmacy.com/brands/Absorb-Plus.html
      Please let us know if we can help with anything else.

      Kind Regards,
      Customer Care

  • Hi Jini,

    Please send me an email so I can communicate with you. My name is Bruce and I’m in South Africa.
    I have crohns for 18 years now and I’m in the middle of a serious flare.
    I need your advise. Please.

    1. Hello Bruce,

      Jini is unable to do private consultations anymore, however, her customer service team can answer your questions on any of her recommendations and information. You are welcome to email them at service@listentoyourgut.com You can also start by seeing Jini’s recommendations for Crohn’s disease here: http://listentoyourgut.com/symptoms/14/crohn-s-disease.html
      Please let us know if we can help with anything else.

      Kind Regards,
      Customer Care

  • Hi have chrohns long time, failed to heal on all drugs and found your protocol, felt I was so close to healing and now back in hospital and they say have to stop trying and go for surgery. Will I keep trying or resign to it after 15 years?

  • Thank you for this article. I had a question regarding the “long and windy path” part.

    I spent over 3 years incapacitated by a gut illness. A summer of 6 rounds of strong antibiotics for a gut infection I got through drinking contaminated water on a backpacking trip damaged the nerves and muscles in my gut so severely that I spent about a year either on TPN or not eating or drinking and getting driven to the doctor every other day to tank up on IV fluids. I gave up on western medicine after the first year and a half and then spent a couple years trying to figure things out on my own in the holistic world. I’ve discovered that copious amounts of probiotics and the Gerson Therapy seem to be my ticket back to health. It’s been two years so far of gradually increasing probiotics and the Gerson Therapy as I slowly improve and can tolerate more. I am back to functioning fairly normally most days – able to take care of myself and the house but not yet able to work and still far from my marathon running days.

    So….my question is….(I remember reading that you took like 7 years to completely heal)….how did you stay positive? There are days when I’m feeling fairly normal and am optimistic that I will fully recover. And there are still many days when I wonder if I will ever fully recover and get my life back and whether it’s really worth continuing on. As you say, recovery is not linear, it’s a long and windy path. How did you stay positive during the stretches where it feels like you’re not making much progress?

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Instead of viewing your health and healing as an end-point, it will help you immeasurably to view it as a journey. Instead of looking at how far you still have to go, if you can focus on how far you’ve come and all the improvements you have made, you will have a lot more peace and happiness along your Healing Journey.

      In developing and following the methods and therapies outlined in Jini’s program, Jini has improved her own health to the point where she has been drug and surgery-free for over 20 years; Living a full and active life, having children, and her own business. In fact, she no longer has Crohn’s Disease. However, she eats mostly organic, unprocessed food, lives in a toxin-free home, takes supplements when needed, utilizes EFT when needed, does yoga and spends lots of time outdoors with her horses. She no longer experiences intestinal disturbances and the spectre of “disease” and all its accouterments (drugs, surgery, hospital visits, exploratory tests, etc.) is no longer a part of her life. 

      Kind Regards,
      Cris B

  • I have a wild oregano question, I started protocol today. I have no infection now but did a month ago. That’s when I had my first flare. I was told by customer service to do oregano oil 3xs a day and p robiotics at night for first week. My question is then what do I do second week???, and what after That??? And for how long?? The book says a month for phase 1 in the protocol. And when do I start implementing the other supplements??? I really want to do this right! Thank you!

  • Many thanks for this informed and enlightening blog. The …”Causes of IBS” series caught my eye and I’ll regularly follow that thread.

    This morning I was preparing for my twice-monthly probiotic enema and relaxing until the preparatory cleanse was discharged. It occurred to me that I was about to squirt some personal lube into my anal canal and smear the enema nozzle with another lube.

    A check of the ingredients wasn’t clear as to the bacteriostatic and/or bacteriocidal properties of my personal lubes. This need runs counter to what many (perhaps most) of customers want.

    I’d suggest that the Shoppe “team” identifies suitable products and has them private branded so that the source can be controlled and profits can be used exclusively for your good works.

    Thanis, Larry

    How about identifying some

  • Hi Jini,

    You have some amazing life changing advice and research that I honestly appreciate immensely however, I can’t help but feel extremely overwhelmed to the point where it stresses me out reading through your advice about how their are environmental factors and toxins that inhibit this disease, aswell as foods, bacteria, stress, wifi is bad, mivrowaves are bad, you have to be cautious of what your sleeping on, what your wearing and bathing with, brushing your teeth with, what your drinking, what your ingesting, breathing and all the things that are around and are practically inevitable to most humans in 2018. I am fully committed to eating right, and sticking to the herbs and probiotics, controlling what’s i ingest etc but the rest seems far too unrealistic for me or even for my child. How is he supposed to grow up being completely free from all of these things and how am I as a mother supposed to protect him and myself from ALL of these things? I wanted to share this thought with you as I feel as though I have anxiety from learning all of this and don’t know where to draw the line on my healing journey!!
    Also my son does not have any conditions he is only 3 years old, but I would like to get him some of Natrens probiotics what is safe and which can you recommend to give him?
    Your help would be highly appreciated!
    Thank you for being so inspiring and sharing your wisdom with us all.

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