Irritable bowel syndrome, a disorder of the large intestine, causes a plethora of symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas, abdominal bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic digestive problem that may require long term management. Many times the majority of your symptoms can be controlled through dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, and stress management.
What Causes IBS?
The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown; however, there are several factors that can increase the risk of IBS and the severity of symptoms. These include:
- Bacteria in the Digestive Tract – Your intestines contain good and bad bacteria. If you have a surplus of bad bacteria, your risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome increases exponentially.
- Changes in Intestinal Muscle Contractions – Your intestines are lined with muscles that contract and relax to help move food through the digestive system. If contractions are too strong and last for an extended length of time, you can experience diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Conversely, if your contractions are weak, food will move through the intestinal tract too slow, causing dry, hard stools (constipation).
- Infection – If you have had gastroenteritis (a bacterial or viral infection of the intestines), you could develop IBS.
- Intestinal Inflammation – If you suffer from IBS, the number of immune cells in your intestines is increased, causing diarrhea and stomach pain.
- Nervous System Abnormalities – If you suffer from nervous system abnormalities, the nerve impulses from the brain to the intestines can become overactive, resulting in abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Triggers
There are three main triggers for irritable bowel syndrome – food, hormones, and stress.
- Food Intolerances – Food intolerances cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Some of the most common foods that cause a food intolerance are dairy products and gluten.
- Hormones – Women are more than twice as likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome than men. Many researchers believe this is because of the hormonal changes that occur throughout the month in women.
- Stress – Stress has been shown to aggravate the symptoms of IBS; however, it is not believed to cause IBS.
Benefits of Probiotics for IBS
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal tract. These bacteria help digest food, maximize nutrient absorption, reduce inflammation, and improve digestive health. Furthermore, probiotics regulate the bacteria in the GI tract and help to decrease the bad bacteria in the intestines, which can increase irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
Probiotics are living beneficial bacteria that promote gastrointestinal health. When you have irritable bowel syndrome, you will experience various symptoms, including gas, poor digestion, abdominal cramping, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. A probiotic supplement that contains bifidobacterium, lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces strains will help to improve digestion, reduce intestinal inflammation, and reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotics boost the number of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract. As the beneficial bacteria begin to multiply, they will fill the intestinal lining, decreasing the amount of space for bad bacteria, which is often the cause of digestive discomfort. Beneficial bacteria breaks down foods and reduce the risk of food intolerances. Finally, beneficial bacteria reduces inflammation and eases your abdominal discomfort.
There are several things you can do to relieve and reduce the symptoms of IBS. A functional medicine practitioner specializing in digestive disorders will work with you to identify the cause of your IBS symptoms, so you can reduce the risk of flare-ups. Our doctors will create a customized meal and supplementation plan based on your unique digestive health.