Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a gut issue?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a very frightening and complicated disorder. Defined as severe exhaustion that can’t be relieved by rest, this condition has frustrated modern medicine for a long time.

Also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), this disease has no real triggers or underlying conditions, and diagnosing it requires a lot of time and testing. Although anyone can have CFS, women are far more likely to suffer from it than men, most commonly in their middle years.

Its symptoms run the gamut, from extreme fatigue lasting more than a day and unexplained joint or muscle pain to enlarged lymph nodes, headaches, poor sleep and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

While CFS is a condition with very few connections, research teams at Columbia and Cornell Universities have found important markers that link it to the human gut.

83 percent accurate

The discovery that connects chronic fatigue syndrome to the human gut was a welcome confirmation to Cornell researchers that its origins were definitely not psychological.

“Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in ME/CFS patients isn’t normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease,” says Dr. Maureen Hanson, senior author of the study, according to a press release. “Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”

For the record, the Cornell study compared blood and stool samples from 48 CFS patients to 39 health controls. The links to a gut health connection were obvious.

Chronic fatigue patients had less gut bacteria diversity and their blood samples showed signs of inflammation linked to leaky gut. Stool samples also found markers for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, even more serious gut problems.

Moreover, scientists were able to detect which patients were battling CFS based on microbiome testing with 83 percent accuracy.

Gut imbalances affect severity

Mirroring the Cornell findings, Columbia researchers also found bacterial imbalances – too much of some bacterial species including Faecalibacterium – in the fecal samples of the 50 chronic fatigue syndrome patients they examined (versus an equal number of healthy ones), according to the study appearing in Microbiome.

These imbalances varied depending on whether CFS patients were also suffering from IBS or not (21 of the 50 patients did have IBS). Also, depending on which bacteria imbalance chronic fatigue syndrome patients had and the metabolic pathways affected, the severity of their symptoms differed too.

“Individuals with ME/CFS have a distinct mix of gut bacteria and related metabolic disturbances that may influence the severity of their disease,” says Columbia researcher Dorottya Nagy-Szakal, according to a press release.

Probiotic success

Despite all of the attention paid by Columbia and Cornell researchers, a few scientists already had an eye on the intersection of gut health and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In fact, a systemic review of studies appearing very recently in Beneficial Microbes cited studies that showed how using probiotics may be effective in treating CFS and fibromyalgia.

(Both studies cited in this review used proprietary strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the two building blocks of EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.)

Based on these results, it seems more likely probiotics could become part of a more comprehensive treatment plan for chronic fatigue syndrome. 

“If we have a better idea of what is going on with these gut microbes and patients, maybe clinicians could consider changing diets using prebiotics such as dietary fibers or probiotics to treat the disease,” says Ludovic Giloteaux, a researcher in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University.

Why Do I Need to Take a Probiotic?

For people who are reading our blog for the very first time or those needing a refresher course in good gut health habits, you may be wondering why we devote so much space to explaining why you need to take a probiotic.

There are A LOT of reasons for taking probiotics, in addition to promoting good gut health! Fortunately, you don’t have to do the research.

What follows are 10 important reasons why you should be taking probiotics for your good health, based on the latest research.

  1. Many cheap brands of probiotics contain a single strain of beneficial bacteria, which may be good for a specific problem. However, a multi-strain probiotic protects the diversity of your gut and treats common gut health problems like constipation too.
  1. Do you use an over-the-counter medication like loperamide (Imodium) to treat a case of diarrhea? Taking a probiotic is one of the most effective ways, not only to get rid of diarrhea, but to prevent it altogether.
  1. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can do great harm to your gut and your emotions, disrupting your body’s gut-brain axis. Taking a probiotic and a prebiotic (EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and Endomune Jr. Probiotics for Kids contains both) may be a good way to treat IBS and depression without a drug.
  1. Are you taking antibiotics more than once a year to treat persistent infections? Antibiotics rapidly deplete the beneficial bacteria and make you more vulnerable to serious diseases such as colon cancer and more serious antibiotic-resistant infections. Taking a daily probiotic gives your body extra protection by replenishing the beneficial bacteria your body needs.

(You’ll also do your health a great deal of good by avoiding contact with antibacterial soaps that contain broad spectrum and synthetic antimicrobial compounds like triclosan too.)

  1. For patients who suffer from migraines, scientists have recently discovered a link between those painful headaches and nitrates, a common food additive. Some gut health experts believe taking a probiotic may become a safer, non-drug answer to treat migraines.
  1. Have problems with your teeth? Taking a probiotic is good treatment, as it may be a one more way to heal chronic periodontitis and reduce inflammation and levels of gingivitis and plaque, in addition to regular dental care.
  1. Hypertension can be a warning sign of serious health problems behind the scenes and even death. Taking a daily probiotic can improve your overall health, lower your blood pressure safely and lessen your dependence on prescription medications.
  1. Do you fly for your job or pleasure on a frequent basis or work a swing shift? The balance of bacteria in your gut is affected your body’s circadian rhythms as you cross time zones — often due to jet lag — but taking a probiotic prevents that yo-yo effect from harming your health.
  1. Protecting your sleep is an important part of restoring your body night after night. Be sure that any probiotic you consider taking also contains a prebiotic that can help you improve your sleep.
  1. Are you a new parent losing sleep over your baby’s prolonged crying due to colic? A number of studies point to probiotics as a safe, healthy way to lessen colic and prevent other common problems for babies like acid reflux and constipation.

Treating IBS-Related Depression With Probiotics

Most symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — gas, cramping, diarrhea and constipation — are very uncomfortable, very embarrassing and very painfully obvious.

Considering the pain and discomfort you may be feeling, however, you may not be paying as much attention to one specific symptom — depression — as it really deserves.

Plus, taking drugs like mesalazine may be good for treating some IBS symptoms, but they don’t address the real problem: Restoring a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

Not only can taking a probiotic be a safer way to restore and protect that gut bacteria balance, it may also treat the symptoms of depression associated with IBS too, according to a recent study published in Gastroenterology.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada studied the effect that prescribing a probiotic formulated with a proprietary blend of Bifidobacterium longum (one of the 10 species of beneficial bacteria found in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic) has on treating depression.

Over the course of 10 weeks, scientists monitored the health of 44 patients, half of whom took a probiotic while the rest were given a placebo.

After just six weeks, nearly two-thirds of patients in the probiotic group felt greater relief from their depression based on falling scores based on the standard Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), versus just seven in the placebo group.

More evidence that those falling HADS scores were real: Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging tests that showed changes in various sectors of the brain related to mood control.

Other good things could be taking place behind-the- scenes that moderate your mood levels, thanks to probiotics. For example, as much as 90 percent of your body’s serotonin, a chemical that works as a neurotransmitter in the brain, is produced in the gut.

Taking a probiotic is one important and safe way to protect and enhance the diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut naturally, without a drug.

Multi-species probiotics conquer constipation

All by itself, constipation is a serious health problem accounting for some 2.5 million visits to American doctors, not to mention a growing number of trips to the ER. Constipation is also one of the telltale symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition that affects the colon.

In the past, people have attempted to treat their IBS symptoms with drugs like mesalazine and mexiletine with only mixed results and a lot of unwanted side effects.

The real problem with taking these kinds of drugs is that they don’t get to the root cause of the problem: Rebuilding the healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Taking a multi-species probiotic can do a great deal of good, not only in restoring that gut healthy balance, but treating IBS symptoms associated with constipation too, according to a recent Italian study appearing in BioMed Research International.

For their randomized, double-blind study, scientists divided 150 IBS patients (all adults between age 18-65) with constipation issues into three groups, including one who received a placebo, for 60 days.

Interestingly, three of the five strains of beneficial bacteria in the multi-species probiotic given to patients — blends of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus acidophilus — are contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

Compared to the placebo group, the major symptoms of IBS patients taking a multi-species probiotic improved from 74-82 percent compared to just 40 percent for the placebo group.

Even better, patients in both probiotic groups enjoyed relief from symptoms 30 days after the end of supplementation. In fact, signs of some beneficial bacteria were present in stool samples taken from patients too.

This study provides more evidence that taking a probiotic can be a much safer, healthier solution for treating constipation, especially the variety connected with IBS and a lot of other gut-related problems.

Again, the real trick is taking a probiotic made with multiple strains of bacteria from three key “families” (plus a prebiotic) like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that supports the diversity of bacteria that inhabit your gut.

The gut-brain axis even works between mice and men

The importance of a healthy gut-brain axis — the connection that links your brain, intestines and emotions — is critical to protect your cognitive and physical well-being.

That connection seems pretty clear, considering as much as 90 percent of your body’s serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter that sends message from one part of your brain to another, may be produced in your gut.

A recent study appearing in Science Translational Medicine takes the gut-brain axis connection to the next level, literally between mice and men, with the help of fecal transplants.

IBS and the gut-brain axis

Curious about the effect irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has on behavior and intestinal health, researchers from McMaster University and the University of Waterloo took an unconventional approach: Transplanting fecal samples from eight patients suffering from IBS with diarrhea for at least two years and five healthy people into germ-free mice.

Three weeks later, compared to mice that received healthy samples, animals that were given IBS-laced transplants experienced increased gut permeability, low-grade inflammation and faster gastrointestinal transit (how long it takes food to travel from the stomach and through the intestine).

Then, scientists tested anxiety-associated behaviors by measuring the time mice spent in the dark and how long it took them to step down from a platform to explore their environments, according to The Scientist.

Mice that were given fecal samples from human IBS patients who reported anxieties experienced similar emotional difficulties, compared to animals given fecal samples from healthy patients and those with IBS who reported no problems with anxieties.

Probiotics to the rescue

Researcher Dr. Giada De Palma called these findings a landmark “because it moves the field beyond a simple association and toward evidence that changes in the microbiota impact both intestinal and behavioral responses in IBS.”

These results also offer more evidence that human gut health may play a larger role in the range of brain disorders ranging from the emotional (mood or anxieties) to more serious problems, like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and autism, according to a press release.

The good news: Scientists believe treatments such as probiotics and prebiotics could be beneficial in treating, not only the physical aspects of IBS but the behavioral issues associated with it too.

Protecting the health of your gut by taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic is certainly much safer and more effective than taking a drug like mesalazine that merely treats symptoms but not the root cause of IBS: Restoring the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Treat IBS with probiotics and not drugs

IBS treatment. As you know, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the more common and chronic gastrointestinal problems, affecting the health of up to 20 percent of the Western world.

The symptoms of IBS — bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramping, gas and abdominal pain — are certainly uncomfortable and embarrassing, but there are treatment options available.
You can read more about how to get rid of constipation here.

Previously, we’ve discussed research that has shown how conventional medicine has treated IBS with drugs like mexiletine, part of an antiarrhythmic class of medications that are a mixed blessing due to side effects, some of which can be adverse.

A recent study featured in Gut and Family Practice News has ruled out another IBS drug: Masalazine (Pentasa), an anti-inflammatory prescription drug that belongs to the aminosalicylate class and is used to treat ulcerative colitis.

Interestingly, some of the known side effects of mesalazine include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, which can worsen ulcerative colitis too. And, because this medication is similar to aspirin, young children and teens shouldn’t take it if they have the flu and chickenpox or have received a recent vaccine.

None of these are “good” side effects for a drug meant to treat IBS.

In a double-blind study, 115 patients who finished a trial took a daily dose of mesalazine or a placebo for 12 weeks. Patients maintained a “stool” diary, had appointments with researchers during the study and gave stool and sigmoid biopsy samples before and at the end of the trial.

Although a small group of patients experienced significant improvements in some areas, scientists determined there was no advantage between taking mesalazine and a placebo.

For most patients, taking mesalazine didn’t improve stool consistency or abdominal pain compared to the placebo during the final two weeks of the study. In fact, a worsening of IBS symptoms (diarrhea and abdominal pain) was the most common problem experienced by patients taking mesalazine.

Drugs like mesalazine and mexiletine merely treat symptoms of IBS but don’t get to the root cause of the problem: restoring the balance of beneficial bacteria that builds the foundation of good gut health.

The good news: Protecting and improving the diversity of your gut health can be as safe and convenient (no side effects) as taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior, made from multiple strains of beneficial bacteria plus the prebiotic fructooligosaccharide.

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IBS may ease struggle to diagnose celiac disease

Diagnosing celiac disease can be a long and frustrating process as doctors and patients struggle to identify the various triggers to this condition that plague the immune system.

A recent Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics (JAMA) study linking celiac disease to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in children could ease that process. At the same time, probiotics containing bifidobacterium are promising for treating patients with these dual conditions.

This is good news for celiac sufferers as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness reports that 83 percent of Americans with celiac disease are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Many struggle for years with celiac-related health problems before understanding the root causes of their symptoms.

An immune reaction that damages the small intestine when certain people eat gluten — hence the growing interest in gluten-free foods — celiac disease can be difficult to treat because it affects everyone differently. Symptoms range from digestive problems to diarrhea, abdominal pain and even depression.

The study results

Based on blood tests taken by Italian researchers during the six-year study, 12 of 15 children who tested positive for celiac disease also suffered from IBS.

The benefits of this link between IBS and celiac disease are two-fold: Scientists suggest only IBS patients be tested for celiac disease rather than those suffering from functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDS), a cost-saving measure considering “screening tests are common, costs are substantial, and the yield is minimal.”

Another important benefit: Just like IBS sufferers, celiac patients may benefit from taking probiotics containing strains of bifidobacterium, according to a report in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

The benefits of bifidobacterium

In addition to following a strict gluten-free diet, a 2013 study concluded celiac patients experienced fewer problems with indigestion, constipation and reflux after being treated with bifidobacterium, demonstrating potential for improvement among untreated celiac patients.

Other findings have shown the presence of bifidobacteria in babies may affect the development of celiac disease later in life. For example, breast milk can stimulate the growth of bifidobacterial species in the guts of healthy infants.

Another study was conducted on infants who were related to at least one family member with celiac disease. It concluded that reduced amounts of bifidobacterium were found in patients who experienced an increased risk of developing celiac disease later in their lives.

Bifidobacteria has been used to treat numerous conditions:

  • Atopic eczema in babies
  • Flu-like symptoms in children
  • Hepatitis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Lyme disease
  • Cancer

More good news: Bifidobacterium is one of the active strains of beneficial bacteria contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior.

In addition to the multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, both EndoMune probiotics contain no dairy products, preservatives and artificial colorings and are gluten-free.

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.

Protecting your gut-brain axis with probiotics

Do you realize how strong the connection between your brain and intestines, which is better known as the gut-brain axis, really is?

For example, you may feel that connection painfully or positively when you’re feeling anxious about an event out of your control, experiencing a fender-bender, taking a pop test, going on a first date or making an important presentation at your job.

The physical feelings you’re experiencing in your gut are the direct result of your brain releasing chemicals traveling through the bloodstream or the major nerve pathways. Those messages could be painful (no second date) or positive (you aced the presentation) depending on how your individual gut-brain axis reacts to the outcome.

Some health experts believe the dysfunction of the gut-brain axis may explain several health problems, ranging from fatigue and brain fog to something as simple as toenail fungus.

One of the best and simplest ways to maintain a healthy, balanced gut-brain axis—taking a multi-species probiotic—is at the heart of a recent University of Michigan study about the connection between stress and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on mice.

Researchers discovered mice produced chemicals called inflammasomes to maintain good gut health. However, when stressed, a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) produced by mice blocked the benefits of those inflammasomes, while changing the composition of their guts, leading to intestinal inflammation. The good news: Mice pretreated with probiotics experienced reduced intestinal inflammation, by reversing the inhibition of inflammasomes.

So, how do these positive results affect folks dealing with IBS? Although researchers say that stress doesn’t cause IBS, it alters gut-brain interactions that lead to diarrhea, problems with appetite and chronic or severe gut pain.

“The effect of stress could be protected with probiotics which reverse the inflammation of the inflammasomes,” says John Kao, senior study author and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. “This study reveals an important mechanism for explaining why treating IBS patients with probiotics makes sense.”

The important takeaway from this study regarding probiotics: Your body is under constant attack externally (bad bacteria is lurking everywhere) and internally (too many things to do and not enough time to do them). Taking a probiotic is the safest, most effective way to maintain the balance that protects and preserves a healthy gut-brain axis.

Taking a multi-species probiotic is healthier than a placebo

Despite the 10 reasons we cited in a recent blog post, you may still be questioning why you should take a probiotic for your good health.

Unfortunately, a recent study published in the medical journal BMC Gastroenterology that compared the benefits of a probiotic to a placebo (a substance that may look like a drug but contains no medication and is taken merely to reinforce a patient’s belief he or she will get well) may have you doubting the effectiveness.

For the record, British researchers conducted a double-blind trial that compared the benefits 179 irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) patients felt after taking a functional probiotic yogurt or a placebo (non-probiotic yogurt) twice daily.

After four weeks, there was very little difference in the amount of relief felt by patients taking a probiotic (57 percent) versus a placebo (53 percent). By weeks eight and 12, however, patients taking the placebo experienced greater benefits compared to those taking a probiotic.

However, probiotic users shouldn’t be alarmed. The product tested in the study, like many food supplements of its kind, contained just a single strain of beneficial bacteria. It’s difficult to determine just how much beneficial bacteria are contained in yogurt, especially since most contain dead microbiota.

Shortly after BMC Gastroenterology published its study, the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology released one of its own that found probiotics containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria reduced IBS symptoms in 68 percent of participants compared to just 37.5 percent of those given a placebo.

In fact, studies have shown beyond a doubt that probiotics containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria are more effective in treating a host of health problems in addition to IBS, including diarrhea, immune functioning and respiratory tract infections.

Taking a health-boosting probiotic like EndoMune Advanced, which contains at least 10 different varieties of bacteria, some 16 billion beneficial bacteria and prebiotics every day, can do wonders for your continued good health.

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