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IBS and Weight Loss

Dr Stephen Wangen
February 20, 2024

Many people who have IBS are either losing weight or having trouble putting on weight, and this topic is particularly important to me personally, because I’ve had the same problem.  So I’m excited to be talking about it here with you today. Let’s dive in and explore why this happens so often in IBS patients.

Growing up I had IBS, and I always had a terrible time putting on weight. Everyone thought that I was just thin and athletic, and they thought that I was incredibly healthy. And although I was athletic, there was a lot more to it than that, and I wasn’t all that healthy.

I should point out that this does not happen to everyone with IBS, but it does happen to a lot of people with IBS. You can be overweight and have IBS, and that isn’t at all unusual. But in our cultural it is unusual to talk about unexplained weight loss, or an inability to gain weight. And that’s another reason that I feel it’s important to talk about this.

As we all know, IBS is a digestive problem. And when you have a digestive problem, you are by definition not digesting your food properly. And if you aren’t digesting your food properly, then it follows that you are likely not breaking down the nutrients in your food in a way that you normally would, and therefore you aren’t absorbing those nutrients properly.

On top of this, if you have diarrhea as part of your IBS, and not everyone does by the way, then you definitely have a problem absorbing the nutrients from your food, because they are just rushing through you.

So it’s no wonder that you are losing weight, or having trouble maintaining your weight or putting on weight. The food that you are eating is just passing through. It’s not getting absorbed.

When all of this is happening it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to put on weight until you solve your digestive problems.

This is what happened to me. I remember when I was in my early 20’s, I would work out at the gym and lift weights, and I could not for the life of me add any muscle mass, or any other weight, no matter how much I worked out or how much I ate.

In fact, instead of my muscles adapting to the increased load, I would get injured. This would happen because my muscles couldn’t regenerate and build up. I was doing more harm than good.  And on top of that I had zero endurance, because I had zero reserves.

That was before I solved my IBS. Since then I’ve done numerous century rides on my bike and all kinds of athletic endeavors, and I no longer have the weight problems or other problems that I used to have.

I’ve seen the exact same thing happen in many patients. So the good news is that there is a solution for your IBS, and once you get it resolved, then you’ll be able to stabilize your weight and start to build up a much healthier body.


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