Have you recently been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or have been living with the condition most of your life? IBS is actually more common than you think.
According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS impacts between 25 and 45 million people across the country. And while this condition impacts men and women, research shows that women who experience IBS are more likely to need extra-abdominal and abdominal surgery, such as a hysterectomy or ovarian surgery.
What Causes IBS?
Doctors have a hard time articulating the sole cause of IBS, but there are a variety of contributing factors. Problems with your GI muscles and visceral hypersensitivity, a low threshold for pain in the internal organs, can be to blame, but it may also be the result of a dysfunctional brain-gut connection.
As explained by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, functional GI disorders, like IBS, indicate issues with the connection between the gut and the brain. A disruption in the gut-brain connection can ultimately cause common IBS symptoms:
"For example, in some people with IBS, food may move too slowly or too quickly through the digestive tract, causing changes in bowel movements. Some people with IBS may feel pain when a normal amount of gas or stool is in the gut."
IBS can come with a variety of symptoms and can impact everyone with the condition differently. Some of the most common signs of IBS include:
- Abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating
- Abnormal bowel movements, causing hard or loose stool
- Alternating between diarrhea and constipation
- White mucus in stool
- Excess gas
Women experiencing IBS may also notice that many of these symptoms occur during their menstrual cycle.
There are three types of categories of IBS, all of which can impact your symptoms as well, according to the Cleveland Clinic:
- IBS-C, your main symptom is constipation
- IBS-D, your main symptom is diarrhea
- IBS-M, you have both hard and loose bowel movements
How Can You Relieve Symptoms of IBS?
Everyone’s experience with IBS can vary, but there are habits and changes you can make to your everyday habits to cope with the symptoms.
Finding ways to mitigate the symptoms of IBS can be as simple as making adjustments in your lifestyle, such as:
- Eating more home-cooked meals. Preparing and cooking your own meals allows you to see exactly what goes into the foods you eat. Foods prepared and cooked in restaurants may contain ingredients that trigger your IBS symptoms.
- Making time for relaxation. Stress and anxiety can also trigger IBS, so it’s important to find ways to mitigate these feelings. Relaxation and meditation can be a great way to cope with the symptoms of IBS, as it prioritizes the gut-mind connection.
- Incorporating more probiotics into your daily habits. Probiotics may be the ticket to improving the gut-mind connection, alternating the gastrointestinal flora, and creating a more sound gut microbiome.
Are Probiotics Good for IBS?
With so much discussion around the gut-mind connection and how that impacts IBS, there’s no denying how valuable a probiotic supplement may be when it comes to alleviating IBS symptoms. And there’s research to back it up.
In a peer review by researchers at Drake University College of Pharmacy, evidence suggests supplementing the gastrointestinal flora with certain live microorganisms can lead to healthier gut flora, and promote general health as well.
"There is evidence to suggest that certain strains of probiotics may stimulate an anti-inflammatory response or improve visceral hypersensitivity, which could theoretically lead to an improvement in symptoms of IBS."
In a separate review of 19 randomized, controlled trials performed on 1650 patients with IBS, the researchers at McMaster University Medical Centre concluded that probiotics showed a significant difference in the group as compared to their experience with the placebo. The patients experienced a reduction in abdominal pain and other common symptoms.
When is the Best Time to Take Probiotics for IBS?
If you’re struggling with IBS and want to take a holistic approach at mitigating the symptoms, consider taking a probiotic supplement.
Even individuals without IBS should consider adding more probiotic-friendly foods or a probiotic supplement to their diets, as gut health can make or break overall wellness and body functionality.
If you’re interested in starting a probiotic supplement to cope with the symptoms of IBS, talk to your doctor or a trusted healthcare professional. Taking probiotics for IBS C may differ from the other types of IBS, because different probiotic strains can be beneficial for different symptoms associated with IBS. This is important to know before you add it to your regimen. A care professional can help you make an action plan for symptom mitigation based on the state of your condition and your current medications.
Once you get in the habit of taking a probiotic supplement, the best way to reap its benefits is to be consistent with it. You may notice the difference in your digestion within the first week or two of taking a probiotic supplement, but you’ll find greater results months down the road.
Best Probiotics for IBS Treatment
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Nella is made with a blend of three exclusive Lactobacillus strains based on innovative technology developed at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. This supplement supports better sleep, energy levels, and digestion, allowing you to better digest your food, experience regular bowel movements, and absorb nutrients properly.
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WRITTEN BY: Marina Santiago, PhD
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
|Dr. Santiago has a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from the Microbiology and Immunobiology Department of Harvard Medical School, but she has been fascinated by microbes and microbial communities for as long as she can remember. She works as an independent R&D strategy consultant and helps companies create and use evidence-based frameworks for making strategy decisions as well as helping them launch new programs or initiatives. Dr. Santiago is also passionate about fitness and the outdoors. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, and backpacking very long distances, as well as slowly getting better at yoga, Muay Thai, and Jiu Jitsu.