The Role of Probiotics
The causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are not well understood although it affects around 30 million people in the US (about 20 percent of the population), making it the most commonly suffered gastrointestinal disorder. Uncomfortable, embarrassing and often painful, IBS is characterized by poor digestive function, leading to diarrhea or constipation: often it is classed as being predominantly either constipation or diarrhea, or both in alternate doses. Accompanying symptoms include bloating of the abdomen and excessive gas. As there has been little in the way of determining the causes of the disease, recent research findings presented at the Digestive Disease Week conference in Chicago may be crucial in developing an effective treatment. There is growing evidence, that irritable bowel syndrome can be helped with the use of probiotics. This research has determined that the disease may be linked to food poisoning or to an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut, leading many to the idea that probiotic supplements may help sufferers of this condition.
IBS Disrupts Gut Bacteria – Importance of Probiotics
A healthy balance of bacteria is essential for good gut function. Recent research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in collaboration with Sismanogleion General Hospital, Greece, has bolstered evidence that IBS is linked to a microflora imbalance in the gut, leading to an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (termed SIBO). Researchers inspected the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of IBS sufferers and found many more patients with a wider variety of bacteria present and bacterial overgrowth compared to individuals without the disease. Bacterial involvement in IBS has been known for some time as patients often responding well to antibiotics. Overgrowth of harmful bacteria strains is most commonly found in the diarrhea form of the disease and it may be that probiotic supplements could form an effective treatment, to help to restore the natural balance of the gut and to relieve the symptoms of IBS.
Food Poisoning and Stress may Lead to IBS
There is thought to be a genetic as well as an environmental predisposition to IBS, making it a complex disease to study. Computer modeling experiments at Cedars-Sinai have shown that, of those that have genes making them susceptible to IBS, 9% will contract it during a duration of 10 years under normal living circumstances. Those that are susceptible genetically to IBS may begin to suffer from it following a stressful life event or an episode of food poisoning. In the Cedars-Sinai research study it was also found that military personnel are also at a particularly high risk, with 9% predicted to contract IBS within six months of deployment and anecdotal reports suggest that bowel problems are a common problem amongst troops. Stressful life events cannot always be controlled – people working for the army must enter warzones when they are commanded to – but putting the gut in the best possible position of defense can minimize the risk of contracting irritable bowel syndrome. Taking probiotic supplements encourage a healthy population level of the right kind of bacteria to maintain a healthy gut and may be the key to treating and indeed preventing IBS.