Your gut is an incredibly complex system with an enormous number of components, processes, and interactions. Your IBS can be considered a condition that makes these components, processes, and interactions extra sensitive to their environment. Because of this, it’s important to take care of your overall gut health to ensure it is not worsening your IBS symptoms.
The Microbial Universe
There are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000 (about a quadrillion) microorganisms in the human gut made up of 2,172 known species of bacteria.1 It is thought that your environment can have one of the largest negative impacts on the makeup of your guts’ microbiota. ‘Environment’ includes your diet, frequency of antibiotic treatments, surgeries, smoking, and even mood or depression. Even your IBS has an impact on the makeup of your gut microbiome. The species makeup is different in general for IBS patients, and IBS-C patients have a different makeup than IBS-D patients (and vice versa).1
Direct Gut Hormones
The walls of your gut house what are called endocrine cells which directly secrete hormones throughout the stomach, small, and large intestines. The primary role of these cells is to feel out the gut environment using microvilli arms to sense what kind of nutrients and contents are in the gut. The endocrine cells then send a signal to the brain which relays back the cue to start secreting a particular hormone based on what the microvilli sensed.1
There have been several differences found in both the number and type of endocrine cells between those suffering with IBS and those who do not. The differences can cause dysfunctions in gut motility, nervous system sensitivity, and secretion.1 All of which show themselves as the nasty IBS symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
Actions You Can Take
Both your gut microbiome and endocrine cells are influenced by your diet. Your food choices play a part in determining what kind of bacteria can survive in your gut as well as what hormones are released by the endocrine cells.
Low-FODMAP or Elimination Diet- The first way to help influence the activity in your gut is to restrict your diet in ways that best fit your individual situation. It is recommended for patients with IBS to consider a Low-FODMAP diet which restricts the intake of certain (fermentable) carbohydrates. Low-FODMAP elimination diets are individualized in that the diet differs from person to person to help you determine which foods upset your IBS symptoms the most. On a low-FODMAP elimination diet, one slowly introduces certain foods to pinpoint symptoms and target trouble foods that are unique to you. I recommend contacting a nutritionist or physician before starting a specialized diet to help plan and execute it as effectively and safely as possible.
Probiotics and Synbiotics- I’m sure many of you have already heard about the benefits of probiotics, but you may have not heard about the benefits of synbiotics. A “synbiotic” is a fancy word for a mixture of both probiotics and prebiotics. Both probiotics and synbiotics have been shown in research to improve symptoms of IBS including bloating and constipation. 2 The two primary species to look for in probiotic supplements are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. 3 Prebiotics are a form of fiber that help support the good bacteria growing in your gut. These may not directly influence your IBS symptoms; however, they do support other processes that are important for gut health. However, it’s important to note that most studies suggest taking prebiotics exclusively as a synbiotic because prebiotics alone have not been shown to improve IBS symptoms (and can sometimes make the condition worse). Like a diet, it is best to talk with your nutritionist or physician to determine which supplements would be best for you.
Be sure to check out my IBS FREEBIE GUIDE w/ RECIPES HERE!
Thanks for reading!
1. El-Salhy M, Hatlebakk JG, Hausken T. Diet in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Interaction with Gut Microbiota and Gut Hormones. Nutrients. 2019; 11(8):1824. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081824
2. Baştürk A, Artan R, Yilmaz A. Efficacy of synbiotic, probiotic, and prebiotic treatments for irritable bowel syndrome in children: A randomized controlled trial. Turk J Gastroentrol. 2016; 27:439-43. DOI: 10.5152/tjg.2016.16301
3. Floch MH, Walker WA, Sanders ME, Nieuwdorp M, Kim AS, Brenner DA, Qamar AA, Miloh TA, Guarino A, Guslandi M, Dieleman LA, Ringel Y, Quigley EM, Brandt LJ. Recommendations for Probiotic Use--2015 Update: Proceedings and Consensus Opinion. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2015; Nov-Dec;49 (1):S69-73. DOI: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000000420