anxiety

What is IBS?

What is IBS? Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be an uncomfortable condition, but it is nowhere near as serious a health problem as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

However, IBS is still far more common, affecting up to 20 percent of the Western world. Symptoms include gas, constipation, diarrhea, cramping and abdominal pain.

Understanding the combination of conditions that trigger this unpredictable health problem can be a mystery due to multiple contributing factors. Among the causes, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House (NDDIC):

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Food sensitivities
  • Hypersensitivity to pain
  • Motor problems that cause irregular movement in the bowels
  • Altered levels of gastrointestinal hormones and body chemicals that transmit nerve signals

The genetic effect

Near the bottom of the list of causes, the NDDIC cites genetics as a common source among family members with a shared history of IBS problems, but is noncommittal about its overall effect. A recent Mayo Clinic study may shed some new light on the genetics of IBS.

Researchers have identified a genetic defect, a mutation of the SCN5A gene that affects the absorption of water and electrolytes. Disruption of this sodium ion channel can lead to constipation or diarrhea.

After comparing the tissues of 584 IBS patients to nearly 1,400 healthy patients, scientists discovered the genetic defect in 2.2 percent of IBS patients.

Is a drug always the best, safest treatment?

Mayo Clinic researchers treated patients with genetic-based IBS successfully by using mexiletine, a drug that improved the sodium ion transport and eased the symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation for this small group of patients.

Mexiletine is part of the antiarrhythmic class of drugs that works by blocking some electrical signals in the heart to stabilize heart rhythms. (It has also been prescribed to treat nerve damage caused by diabetes.)

Unfortunately, medications may come with adverse effects. Antiarrhythmic drugs like mexiletine have been linked to reports of increased risk of heart attack and death, according to MedlinePlus. Those risks are especially elevated among patients who have suffered a heart attack over the past two years.

Taking mexiletine may also increase the chance of experiencing an irregular heartbeat and hasn’t helped people who don’t experience life-threatening arrhythmias to live longer. MedlinePlus warns against using mexiletine unless a patient has suffered life-harming arrhythmias.

Probiotics: The safer, better treatment option

The real problem with taking prescription medications like mexiletine: Too many of them only treat superficial symptoms but neglect to correct the real health problem. However, there is a safer IBS Treatment option that treats the “whole” patient holistically.

Taking a probiotic made from multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic every day not only alleviates symptoms for many IBS sufferers, but corrects the underlying disorder and does it without the risk of any adverse side effects.

Probiotics May Battle IBS-Induced Stress

You may recall a recent study I posted about the possibilities of an anxiety-free future by taking probiotics. Those possibilities are looking a little more like probabilities, based on the results of a University of Michigan study on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Although stressful emotions aren’t the primary cause of IBS, they can alter brain-gut interactions that trigger the intestinal inflammation that spurs diarrhea, belly pains (severe or chronic) or a loss of appetite.

In tests on mice, University of Michigan scientists discovered that stress may suppress an important element called an inflammasome, which is needed to maintain healthy gut microbes. The good news: Probiotics reversed the suppressive effect in these animals.

“This study reveals an important mechanism for explaining why IBS patients with probiotics makes sense,” said senior study author, gastroenterologist and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan John Y. Kao, M.D.

During the course of the study, researchers found inhibiting inflammosomes changed gut composition, resulting in intestinal inflammation. However, pretreating some rats with probiotics reduced inflammation in animals with stress-induced, small bowel inflammation.

A Possible Anxiety-Free Future With Probiotics

For many, new stresses may arise as the result of the New Year. From New Year’s resolutions to the upcoming tax season, stress and anxiety can take a toll on the body. Recently, researchers looked at how stress and anxiety directly affect the gut-brain axis.

A new study on mice conducted by an international team of researchers found a connection between probiotics, stress and anxiety. Researchers divided the mice into two groups, one being fed a Lactobacillus rhamnosus-filled broth, a bacterium found in EndoMune Advanced, and the other a bacteria-free broth. Conclusions drawn from the study suggest that those that drank the Lactobacillus rhamnosus-filled broth were less stressed and produced less corticosterone, a stress hormone, when reacting to a nerve-racking event.

Although it is not conclusive that probiotics can replace medications for anxiety or stress, the study initiates the idea that alternative treatments, like probiotics, for anxiety or stress disorders may exist in the future. Read the full study and its implications here.

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