Irritable Bowel Syndrome is most often treated by treating the underlying food intolerances, rebalancing your gut microbiome, reducing inflammation, and healing a leaky intestinal wall.
This approach may not be sufficient to restore the gut’s function in some people with an underlying structural problem called abdominal muscle separation (or ‘diastasis rectus abdominous). Let’s look at the relationship between IBS and abdominal muscle separation.
What is a diastasis rectus abdominus, exactly?
This is caused by separation at the abdominal midline, which causes the fascia between your rectus muscles (your “six pack”) to stretch. This can cause misalignment of the abdominal muscles, resulting in significant dysfunction in the core muscles around the midline.
Separating the central fascia can lead to the common ‘bulging belly. This is not due to weight loss or exercise. The protruding organs cause it, most often the small and large intestines.
This will decrease tone and pressure on our intestinal walls, which can affect the quality of our peristaltic movements that keep our intestines healthy. Peristaltic waves, constrictions of the bowel that create a circular shape in the colon, help to mix food and enzymes in the small intestines. They also move the stool in the colon.
Loss of muscle tone can also affect the ‘housekeeping peristaltic wave – certain contractions known as the motor migrating complex, whose function is to remove bacteria and food debris and slough off intestinal wall cells in a fasting condition.
This function may be impaired and cause bacterial overgrowth in the colon and the small intestine. The overgrowth of bacteria can be treated with antibiotics or antimicrobial herbs, but it will not fix the underlying cause of muscle tone loss.
How can I tell if I have diastasis?
Multiple pregnancies increase your risk of developing diastasis. This is due to the higher abdominal pressure during the second and third trimesters. Diastasis in pregnancy does not close completely for most women six months after birth.
This statistic is significant and could help explain why so many women experience back pain, incontinence, or digestive issues after giving birth.
Although pre-pregnancy exercise can protect against diastasis development, strenuous exercise within the first two months after giving birth can increase the chance of the condition by placing additional strain on the midline.
This gives scientific weight to the traditional Asian practice of bed resting for two months after birth. The corset-like fitting is used to bind the new mother’s abdomen to encourage proper alignment of the abdominal muscles and prevent hernias.
Diastasis symptoms and signs
- Pain in the back
- A bulging belly that doesn’t respond to weight loss or exercise
- Bloating/digestive issues/IBS
- Urinary incontinence
- Interstitial cystitis
- None of the above. Diastasis can occur silently and without any obvious symptoms.
You can develop diastasis even if you haven’t had children. The causes of abdominal muscle separation include genetics, poor posture, poor core strength, and poor body mechanics.
If unsure if your diastasis is present, lie on your back and measure the distance between the rectus abdominal muscle’s edges. You can find detailed instructions on how to do it.
What is the best treatment for diastasis?
Some women resort to abdominal surgery to “tie” the muscles. However, it is not the best, most affordable, or most effective solution. The Tupler Technique combines diastasis-specific exercises and wearing the splint to connect the diastasis.