IBS 101: The Origins
Some of the most popular articles on our website feature irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the most common condition gastroenterologists diagnose.
As many as 15 percent of all Americans may experience IBS symptoms during their lifetime, yet only a small portion of people are diagnosed and treated for it.
That’s really not surprising given the three IBS subtypes, depending on whether the main symptoms are constipation (IBS-C), diarrhea (IBS-D) or a mix of both (IBS-A), that can create a lot of confusion.
A recent European study conducted by the Dutch university, KU Leuven, has shed some new light on the real mystery: What triggers IBS.
Food Allergy Or No Food Allergy?
This team of Dutch researchers had already demonstrated how blocking histamine (a chemical released when the immune system is fighting a potential allergen) improved the health of IBS patients.
The real question: If the immune systems of healthy patients don’t react to foods, what would change to trigger IBS? This same European research team conducted tests on mice and IBS patients to find out.
Knowing that patients experience IBS symptoms after a GI problem like food poisoning, scientists infected mice with a stomach bug while feeding them a protein found in egg whites that’s commonly used as a food antigen (any molecule that provokes an immune response).
After the infections cleared up, mice that were fed the same food antigen a second time became sensitive to it, evidenced by the release of more histamine in their bodies and signs of abdominal pain.
What’s more, this immune response was localized in the part of the intestine infected by the gut bug but didn’t produce more generalized symptoms of a food allergy.
When researchers conducted a similar test on 12 IBS patients (injecting their intestines with a mix of cow’s milk, wheat, soy and gluten), the results mirrored the same ones seen in mice to at least one food antigen.
More Work To Be Done
Although scientists have identified one trigger for IBS, there’s still a lot of research ahead before a reliable solution ever comes. But you don’t have to wait to treat IBS dependably and safely.
We already know that following a more balanced diet with more fiber and fewer carbohydrates eases symptoms. A registered dietician may also recommend a FODMAP diet, a restrictive but temporary eating plan to help you target problem foods that could trigger IBS symptoms.
Your doctor may also recommend medications, but changes in a patient’s IBS subtype can make that a tricky proposition. Also, if stress is a factor in your IBS challenges, your physician may prescribe an antidepressant drug too.
However, if you’re wary about taking a drug, there are good non-drug options for easing symptoms, like probiotics that handle the key symptoms of each IBS subtype.
Probiotics do a great job of treating diarrhea and shortening its duration. Maintaining the motility in your intestines with help from probiotics eases constipation. And, when stress becomes a factor, probiotics work well to keep your gut-brain axis in balance.
The reputation of probiotics has become so rock-solid that professional organizations like the British Society of Gastroenterology recommend them as a frontline treatment for IBS.
When you’re looking for a good probiotic, be sure it’s formulated with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria that support the healthy microbial diversity of your gut.
Any probiotic you consider should also include a prebiotic, the unsung heroes of gut health that feed the bacteria living in your gut.
You can enjoy the best of both worlds with EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, formulated with 10 strains of beneficial bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families plus the proven prebiotic FOS.