What is IBS?
IBS is one of the most frequently occurring GI disorders. It is a constellation of the following major clinical hallmarks:
- Abdominal pain
- Altered bowel habits
- Straining at the stools
The bowel movements in IBS can follow either a pattern of constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C) or diarrhea- predominant IBS. Constipation-predominant IBS is exasperating – incomplete defecation, straining at the stools, and bloated feeling all interfere with daily chores.
The story of IBS begins with the gut-brain axis!
Our emotions influence our gut functions. That is the reason why many people have butterflies in the stomach when they are apprehensive. Our gut microbiota communicates with the brain and alters behavior. IBS is common in people who already suffer from anxiety issues. Saying it the other way around, anxiety and/or a stressful life event can trigger IBS symptoms. This bidirectional communication coins the phrase – the gut-brain axis. When the gut and brain can’t communicate well, IBS is inevitable.
What’s actually in the gut that interacts with the brain?
It is the gut microbiome. This re-coins the phrase as mIcrobiota- gut-brain axis. In IBS, a lack of these desirable bacteria undermines the gastrointestinal, neurological and/or immune relationships, eventually leading to infirmity.
IBS and Probiotics
The healthy gut microbiota (probiotics) confers a myriad of health benefits in IBS.
- Probiotics assist in breaking down complex molecules ingested as part of the diet. This smoothes out the process of digestion and facilitates elimination of hard feces in IBS-C.
- As stated above, stress is a common precipitating factor for IBS; when taken during periods of stress, probiotics decrease the activation of the areas of the brain that tend to secrete stress hormones like cortisol. Hence, a decrease in the stress hormones calms the mind, the gut, and the associated IBS features. What’s more? Stress triggers gut leakiness, which is counteracted by probiotics. Leaky gut syndrome (enhanced intestinal permeability) also underlies IBS.