Up to 2 in 10 people suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), while more than 4 in 10 regularly suffer digestion issues. IBS is twice as common in women than men, and it's more common for symptoms of IBS to start in your 20s and 30s. While IBS is a chronic condition, meaning it may not go away, our short guide explains how your diet and supplements for IBS can help manage your condition and frequency of symptoms.
What is IBS?
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a collection of symptoms including stomach pain or cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, excess gas, passing mucous from the anus, backache and incontinence. These symptoms of IBS may occur with many health conditions of the gut, therefore IBS should only be diagnosed by a doctor once everything else has been ruled out. IBS is also more common in the mornings, and those who suffer poor sleep are more likely to be affected.
Learn more in 'Common and unusual symptoms of IBS'.
What causes IBS?
There are a few reasons why someone might suffer from IBS. These include over sensitised nerves in the gut, food intolerances, imbalances in the number of probiotics in the gut and possible gut infections with bacteria, yeasts or parasites. IBS is also linked to stress, low fibre diets and high caffeine intake.
How diet can help with IBS
It is important that sufferers of IBS keep a food diary to help understand if any foods in your diet are triggering a reaction. Your diet should provide plenty of water-soluble fibre which helps to feed the probiotics in your gut as well as aiding with normal bowel movements and transit times.
You may also enjoy '7 best foods to help you debloat'.
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What are probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the body and are found in very large numbers in the gut. The gut is teaming with organisms ranging from bacteria, fungi and parasites, which are kept in check by the probiotics. Probiotics provide a vast number of functions throughout the entire body.
Learn more in 'What are probiotics'.
How do probiotics help with IBS?
IBS attacks are often accompanied with anxiety and depression, and stressful situations can make IBS worse. A good microflora is needed to convert the amino acid L. Tryptophan into the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. Serotonin is then transported into the brain on the back of insulin.
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Low serotonin is a major cause of depression and anxiety. The gut contains many nerves and is often called the 'second brain' because there are so many serotonin receptors in the gut. Serotonin is also responsible for triggering the gut movement needed for healthy bowel movements.
Learn more in 'What does your poo say about your health'.
Probiotics produce short chain fatty acids which help by regulating gut health, and helping to prevent the start of food intolerances - a big problem with IBS sufferers. Probiotics also help to crowd-out unwanted organisms in the gut such as bad bacteria, yeast and parasites, and they produce a substance called 'lactic acid' which makes the environment unfavourable to harmful organisms.
Probiotics produce over 200 digestive enzymes which are particularly useful in IBS patents who frequently find undigested food in their stools. Undigested food can lead to irritation of the colon and diarrhoea.
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Best foods for IBS
There are a wide range of healthy foods that are good for your gut if you have IBS. However you can be sensitive to any foods, and even if they're good for one person it doesn't always mean they're good for another, so if something on this list doesn’t suit you, avoid it.
Fibre rich foods
Fibre rich foods are generally good for those who suffer from IBS. Most vegetables and fruit are great, however some people have problems with cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, apples, citrus fruits and melons. Brown rice is another great fibre rich food for IBS sufferers.
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Low FODMAP diet
FODMAP stands for 'Fermentable Oligo, Di and Monosaccharides and Polyols'.
Foods rich in FODMAP have a tendency to ferment in the gut if not broken down properly and cause a wide range of gut symptoms and can worsen or trigger IBS. As a result many people choose a 'low FODMAP diet' to help prevent or minimise symptoms of IBS. The list of low FODMAP foods is extensive, so you need to research the best low FODMAP foods for you, and it can also be worth buying a low FODMAP foods cookbook, such as the Low FODMAP Recipe Book by Lucy Whigham.
Best probiotics for IBS
Lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus plantarum are well researched probiotics that help with IBS symptoms. Some research has found that using this combination can result in a reduction of symptoms in 55% of IBS sufferers.
Other studies show an improvement in all symptoms on 95% of patients who took lactobacillus plantarum, and that taking lactobacillus plantarum could improve flatulence, as well as reducing the number of days with abundant gas by half in IBS sufferers.
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