Can Daily Probiotics Help With Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
7 minute read
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a prevalent gastrointestinal problem that occurs in approximately 16 percent of the population. Symptoms of IBS impact our digestive system, and are very uncomfortable. They include gas, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation.
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Our bodies are made up of a large amount of friendly bacteria that support every major organ and system. There is a delicate relationship between these bacteria and the health of our gastrointestinal system, but is it the answer to beating IBS?
Current Treatments for IBS
There are currently a number of options available to treat IBS symptoms. The problem with medications and drugs is that people experience negative side effects. People face having to decide which symptoms are worse; those from IBS or those from the medications.
Laxatives: specifically used to treat constipation and must be used under direction from a physician.
Bulking agents: can help with stool passage but also have been known to worsen symptoms.
Anticholinergics: usually helpful when symptoms appear right after eating, but relief is limited.
Anti-diarrheal agents: these can be helpful in relieving diarrhea, but can have worse side effects.
Anti-depressants: these are used to minimize gut-brain communications, by reducing the pain signals sent from the gut.
We have a symbiotic relationship with our intestinal flora and when their composition is compromised, we are exposed to health risks and disease. Our reliance on antibiotics has been identified as causing serious problems.
We take medications to help prevent diseases and kill off pathogenic bacterial strains that have invaded our body. The problem lies in the fact that these medications also kill off the bacteria that we rely on.
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Antibiotics can alter the bacterial makeup in our gut and as a result people can become more at risk for IBS symptoms. It ends up being a catch-22 situation because antibiotics can also help when there are too many pathogenic strains in the gut. What are we supposed to do when our guts become overrun with bad bacteria? Do we take antibiotics to kill them and risk depleting our intestinal friends? Is there an alternative?
A Different Approach
When you take into consideration that our bodies contain more bacteria than body cells, it is easy to see why lower numbers would cause us serious health issues. In particular, our digestive tracts contain trillions of bacteria, with most being situated in the large intestines. These friendly gut flora provide a number of benefits for our health.
♦ Support our immune system as well as the local gut defense
♦ Protect against pathogenic bacterial infections
♦ Produce useful substances such as essential vitamins that the body requires
Probiotics provide a boost to the numbers of bacteria present in our digestive tracts, specifically our intestines. The more beneficial bacteria we have, the less room there is for the bad kind. These friendly flora are great at breaking down the foods that help contribute to IBS.
Additionally, probiotics help to support the enteric nervous system, which is associated with the gut, therefore reducing the impact stress can have on our gut. Given that a number of people attribute IBS symptoms to stress, this is an insightful benefit of probiotics.
These are living microorganisms that actually benefit our health. The addition of these to our diets can alter the intestinal composition of bacteria to our advantage. By naturally increasing the number of beneficial strains, we end up with a small defense system in our gut that can fight off the pathogens. Probiotics can be found in certain fermented foods like yogurt, miso soup and sauerkraut, but ideally they should be consumed as a complete supplemental pill that provides a full-spectrum, doctor-formulated therapy.
Since there are different symptoms associated with IBS, there are different strains that work better for each one.
IBS-D is the code given for IBS with frequent bouts of diarrhea. The best probiotic for this is S. boulardii, which is actually yeast. This strain supports gut health and helps with diarrhea. It is worth noting that this S.boulardii is a transient strain which means it does not colonize in the gut. It would be best to take a digestive enzyme formula that contains S. boulardii, in conjunction with a complete probiotic formula that can colonize in order to provide overall gut health.
IBS-C is the name given when the predominant symptoms is constipation. Bifidoacterium lactis is the most proven strain to help with constipation, by promoting fluid and regular bowel movements.
IBS-A involves alternating digestive symptoms, with days of constipation followed by days of diarrhea. Both L.acidophalus and B.lactis are great for regulating bowel movements as well as relieving bloating and abdominal distension.
IBS-related bloating is best helped by L.acidophilus. People suffering with IBS can get bloating from time to time, but it can really flare up after eating certain foods or when stressed. In these instances, taking supplemental L.acidophilus can relieve any painful bouts of bloating.
Often taking probiotic supplements is a case of trial and error, trying different ones until your symptoms are relieved. You can also take more than one probiotic supplement as way to cover all bases and promote overall gut health. Always be sure to choose a high quality probiotic supplement, and the daily does often contain all that you need.
The Bottom Line
When the balance in your digestive system is disrupted from stress, poor diet or too many antibiotics, it is a good idea to increase your intake of probiotics. Depletion means you are at risk for serious disease and infection, so the sooner you create a balance again, the better off you will be. Speak with your physician about the different probiotic supplements and your IBS symptoms. A daily dose may be beneficial in the long term, rather than just taking some after a round of antibiotics.
Our intestinal tract is responsible for all the nutrient absorption from our food so it is essentially our life line. Every system in our body (urinary, reproductive, circulatory and immune) needs the nutrients that are collected from the gut. People suffering from IBS have an upset and irritated intestinal tract, so nutrients are not going to be properly absorbed. This means every other system is at risk. Probiotics can help ease the symptoms of IBS, and your gut and friendly flora can thrive. A healthy and happy gut leads to a healthy and happy body.
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