As many as 1 in 5 Australian’s will at one stage in their life suffer from IBS and did you know it is more prevalent in women!
There can be many symptoms from abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, urgency and changed bowel habits. There are 3 types of IBS, you can have IBC-C (constipation), IBS-D (diarrhoea) and IBS-M (both constipation and diarrhoea).
What are some key drivers of IBS?
Stress – have you ever felt ‘butterflies in your stomach’ or felt nervous before speaking in public or worried there are no toilets close by and that it has sent you searching for the loo? That is due to your mind-gut connection or gut-brain axis. This bidirectional link is between your central nervous system (CNS), your enteric nervous system (ENS), hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and let’s not forget your gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome sends signals through your vagus nerve (the longest nerve in the body connecting your brain to your gut) to your brain and vice versa. It has been shown that individuals with higher stress are more likely to experience IBS from a dysregulated gut-brain axis.
Gut bacteria disruption – dysbiosis (an imbalance in the types and levels of gut bacteria) as well as small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) are very common in IBS patients. These can lead to systemic inflammation, immune activation, altering the intestinal barrier function, changing your gut bacteria. These bad bugs can over ferment fibre resulting in pain and excessive gas. This is due to the reduction of beneficial bacteria that help breakdown fibre and produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which help to reduce inflammation.
Gut Inflammation – inflammation of the gut barrier can increase intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and lead to immune activation. This inflammation on the gut lining can increase pain sensitivity (abdominal pain) and slow or accelerate your gut motility.
Post-Infection –a previous gastric infection can increase the risk IBS. Infections such as Salmonella may increase intestinal inflammation, leading to an increase in leaky gut and changing the gut bacteria.
Intolerance to FODMAP’s – FODMAP (Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) are types of fibre that gut bacteria ferment naturally and help to support a healthy gut environment by feeding beneficial bacteria. What happens to people with IBS is the overgrowth of bad bacteria over-ferment the FODMAP containing foods leading to pain and flatulence. Limiting high FODMAP foods, doing the re-introduction stage and identifying your food triggers with the support of a naturopath or nutritionist can help alleviate IBS symptoms. This does not work for all IBS patients and is only a short-term strategy while your practitioner works with you to holistically treat the underlying causes of your IBS.
What actions can you take to help your IBS symptoms?
- Reduce stress –
By trying to identify triggers and make sure you are getting quality sleep. Keep a journal to note how your feelings may trigger you to run to the toilet or give you that butterfly feeling.
Look at toning your vagus nerve, some strategies include – having cold showers, humming or chanting, gargling, yoga, meditation. Regular exercise is also important to reduce the physical symptoms of stress.
- Low FODMAP diet –
work with a health care practitioner to see if a low FODMAP diet will help you and your IBS symptoms. This is not a long-term approach, as it can have a negative impact of your microbiome when cutting out complete food groups. Your practitioner will work with your underlying causes and improve your gut health and therefore be able to re-introduce the FODMAP maps that may be an issue for you.
- Reduce Inflammation –
Through diet, eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, oily small wild caught fish, drinking plenty of water, avoid alcohol and excessive caffeine intake.
- Remove dysbiosis (bad bugs) –
Your practitioner can do stool analysis through different test to work out what bacteria you have and what are they doing, that way they can work out the best plan of attack!
- Repopulate your gut with good bacteria –
Probiotics have been shown to be very effective in reducing symptoms if IBS.
- plantarum 299v is a specific probiotic strain with an anti-inflammatory action and has been shown to reduce abdominal pain, frequency, flatulence, bloating and diarrhoea. In one clinical study, 221 IBS patients taking 10 billion colony forming units (CFU) had a reduction in these symptoms after 4 weeks.
It is important to take a strain specific probiotic and not just any one off the shelf, and when you work with a practitioner, they will determine the right probiotic for you as well as dosage and duration.
- Feed your good bacteria –
Prebiotics help to feed your good gut bugs and help them to thrive. Your microbes in your gut help to digest fibre and by feeding them certain gut loving fibre foods this will support them to grow and produce Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) which help to reduce inflammation.
Some prebiotic foods to include in your diet are Kiwifruit, bananas, cabbage, rhubarb, fennel, oats, spelt pasta, and lentils.
Partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG) is a prebiotic and helps to increase SCFA, soften stools and reduce colonic transit time, therefore it can be beneficial for patients with constipation associated IBS.
If you are someone who suffers from IBS or are experiencing these symptoms, then I would suggest you work with an accredited natural health care practitioner today. So, you can start to take action, be in control and not feel trapped by your IBS!
If you want to hear more about IBS, then register for this free webinar I am running for Natural Medicine Week “Are you Feeling Trapped by your IBS?” on Wednesday 25th May at 7:30.