All of us have heard about people who suffer from intestinal disturbances like flatulence and spastic colitis. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions worldwide.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
It is a bowel disorder manifested by intense and painful symptoms. It is not a hereditary condition, but it is often found among members of the same family. It affects both sexes, but it mainly occurs among young women.
What is the frequency of the syndrome?
According to studies, 10-20% of children and adults suffer from the syndrome, and every year the incidence is increasing. Despite its frequency, currently, there is no treatment, as well as the exact causes have not yet been identified.
Irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colitis is a chronic problem with periods of exacerbation and remission. Symptoms may coexist or even vary from person to person. In periods of exacerbation, the symptoms may last from weeks to months. The most common symptoms are:
- diarrhea and/or constipation
Despite the intensity of the symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome is not a dangerous health condition. Pain, discomfort and intestinal disturbances, however, deteriorate the quality of life and adversely affect a person’s mood and psychology. For this reason, diet and lifestyle changes are the cornerstone of the treatment of IBS.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Causes
The exact causes of the syndrome are unknown. Observational studies have found that some factors play an important role in its appearance, without necessarily being the only cause of the syndrome.
Increased muscular peristalsis: The intestine through the peristalsis promotes intestinal content through the gastrointestinal tract. If bowel contractility is disturbed, then a series of symptoms appear. In case of “hyperfunction” and increased contractions (hyperactivity), there are gases, drums and diarrhea. If the intestine becomes “lazy” (hypotonia) then there is constipation.
Nervous system: There are thousands of nervous in the intestine, which communicate with each other as well as with the brain. If there is a neuron disorder, then the intestine does not function normally and there are intestinal disturbances.
Stress – Depression: Although at first sight, they do not seem to be related, anxiety and depression seem to significantly affect bowel’s function. According to studies, 80% of patients with IBS suffer from psychological problems or severe anxiety. It has not been ascertained which of the two problems pre-exists and leads to the other, but emotional and psychological anxiety directly affects bowel function.
Intestinal microflora: Good bacteria colonizing the gastrointestinal tract play an important role in overall health. Studies have shown that individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome have a different microflora compared to others. Many times the onset of the syndrome occurs after an infection (eg. gastroenteritis).
Diet: Although the relationship between diet and IBS is not fully understood, it appears that certain foods can cause a series of symptoms. Foods that usually cause diarrhea, cramps, flatulence and abdominal pain are dairy products, wheat, citrus, beans, cabbage as well as carbonated soft drinks.
Irritable bowel syndrome – treatment
Mild to moderate symptoms are treated by changes in lifestyle and diet, as well as by proper anxiety management. In severe cases, medications such as antibiotics, spasmolytics, antidiarrhoeals or laxatives may be administered, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Diet plays a crucial role in bowel health. Depending on the type of symptoms, such as diarrhea or constipation, the irritable bowel syndrome diet can be differentiated. General instructions are:
- sufficient fiber consumption
- abundant fluid consumption
- reducing food-causing gases
- reducing/avoiding gluten
- diet low in FODMAPs
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Most of the time, dietary changes are not enough to relieve symptoms. The most common dietary supplements that have been found to improve bowel health and alleviate symptoms are:
Fiber. Since recommended fiber intake cannot be met by diet, it is recommended to take a dietary supplement. In case of diarrhea, it is recommended to take soluble fibers, while in case of constipation insoluble fibers. Caution is needed as excessive fiber intake can lead to exacerbation of symptoms, cramps and large gas production.
Prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are bacteria that normally colonize the intestinal tract and help restore the intestinal flora. Probiotics formulas with lactobacillus, bifidobacterium and streptococcus are recommended 1-2 times a day in combination with prebiotics. During periods of exacerbation, it is recommended to take high doses of probiotics, especially in cases where antibiotics are taken.
Peppermint oil. Taking some herbs have been shown to help alleviate the symptoms. In particular, taking mint oil, it was found to relieve spastic colitis and certain gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain and cramping.
Butyric acid. It is a short chain fatty acid which is a source of energy for the intestinal cells, it participates in the proliferation of intestinal cells, in the maintenance of intestinal microflora and in the regulation of intestinal motility.
As irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by inflammation, dyspepsia and flatulence, supplementation of digestive enzymes, omega 3 fatty acids, turmeric, simethicone and activated charcoal can help relieve symptoms and speed up the recovery of normal bowel function.
In Vita4you you can find a great variety of nutritional supplements for irritable bowel syndrome.