How Modulating Your Gut Microbiome Can Help Improve Symptoms of IBS
If you are one of the many people that are dealing with the often-debilitating pain of IBS symptoms, you will be aware of how challenging this condition is. You will probably have been to numerous visits to the doctor, leaving a little frustrated and helpless.
One of the hottest topics in research over the last two decades has been the link between our gut microbiome, IBS and our overall health. The race is on to learn how to tweak our gut microbiome to treat IBS and yes everything from metabolic to heart disease as well.
So, what is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome is a huge, microscopic ecosystem in our digestive tract, containing approximately more than 100 trillion microbes that co-exist and work together. While most of the population is made up of bacteria, there are also parasites, yeasts, protozoa, and fungi in the mix. Our gut microbiome plays a crucial role in our overall health, influencing our metabolism, modulating our body’s inflammatory response and supporting our overall well-being. Additionally, our gut microbiome plays an essential role in modulating the gut-brain axis, which has a major impact on our mental well-being.
How do our gut bacteria support our digestive health?
Everybody’s gut microbiome is different, just like how no two individuals have the same fingerprints.Healthy individuals have a more diverse gut microbiome, with more beneficial microbes that help to support one another and also the immune system. Such microbes break down and ferment indigestible fibre in your small intestine, producing various compounds that help to regulate appetite and blood sugar levels.They produce short-chain fatty acids that support the cells found in your colon, ensuring that the colon lining stays healthy and robust. The gut microbiome also plays a vital role in the regulation of our digestive tract’s smooth muscles and regulates visceral hypersensitivity.
A healthy gut microbiome consists of a variety of bacterial groups, such as:
- Fusobacteria and Verrucomicrobia
When the microbiome becomes unbalanced
Our gut microbiome changes throughout our life. The food we eat, medications we take, environmental exposures, as well as illnesses, affect our gut microbiome and cause it to evolve continually. The imbalance of our gut microbiome is called dysbiosis, which is present in conditions such as IBS. Diets high in fibre are recommended for a more diverse and healthier gut microbiome. However, most people living with IBS still face challenges with what diet suits them the best and also being consistent with their diets.
The IBS gut microbiome
A significant number of individuals suffering from IBS have gut dysbiosis. Research suggests that people with IBS have higher levels of certain species of bacteria such as Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. Some hypotheses suggest that dysbiosis leads to an increase in gut permeability, also known as leaky gut syndrome, which may promote inflammation in the body. There is ongoing research to study the link between leaky gut syndrome and IBS.
The changes in our gut microbiome may have an effect on our intestine’s muscles and nerves causing them to be hypersensitive, resulting in pain as well as changes to the gut motility, which might cause diarrhoea or constipation. Individuals with IBS are found to have more gas-producing bacteria as well as a different combination of short-chain fatty acids in their GI tract.
How do I improve my gut microbiome?
Because IBS is currently the subject of ongoing research, your gastroenterologist will focus on managing the symptoms. The first step will usually involve identifying food intolerances and making some diet changes. Consuming a low FODMAP diet can help to alleviate symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, and gas. Lifestyle changes, such as not smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and exercising regularly, can also help to improve your gut microbiome in the long run.
Probiotics are the topic of intense research and may be one of the ways to help adjust your gut microbiome. Probiotics are active, live organisms that contain specific strains and species of beneficial yeasts and bacteria that can be found in our GI tract. While there is still much to discover regarding the relationship between probiotics and IBS, some studies have found results which show benefit in individuals with IBS.
Managing IBS and its unpleasant symptoms involves lots of patience and some trial and error; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Speaking to a gastroenterologist is critical to know where and how to start managing IBS and how to adjust your gut microbiome. Want to get started on a healthier gut microbiome? Then get in touch with us at GUTCARE, your primary digestive care specialist.
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