With its painful cramping, accompanying gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation, is there possibly any good news about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Actually, the answer is yes. Although the condition usually requires long-term management, sufferers are not at an increased risk of colorectal cancer because IBS doesn’t cause bowel tissue changes. Additionally, IBS can usually be controlled by making healthy lifestyle adjustments.
What is IBS?
Affecting the large intestine/colon, IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder worldwide, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. However, because the majority of people who do suffer from IBS have only mild symptoms, they rarely realize they have the condition.
Importance of Gut Health
A small number of IBS patients experience severe symptoms that require medication and ongoing physician care, but most patients can control symptoms by improving their gut health. The gut is garnering a lot of attention lately and rightly so. Research continues to connect a healthy gut with overall good health.
Not just one specific body part, the “gut” refers to your overall digestive system that runs from your mouth to the end of your large intestine. When determining gut health, most doctors focus on gut flora and the gut barrier.
The gut is filled with 400 known varieties of bacteria and 100 trillion microorganisms in a system called the gut flora that regulates metabolism and gastrointestinal function and makes up most of our immune system. The healthiest gut is one where all the bacteria and microorganisms are in balance and there’s plenty of diversity.
A variety of common things can negatively affect gut health by disrupting gut flora diversity, including:
- Antibiotics, birth control pills and NSAIDs
- Diets high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar and wheat that has been stripped of its nutrients
- Chronic stress
The gut barrier is an optimally functioning gut that processes and delivers the products our body needs while moving along and disposing of the things that our body doesn’t need or which could harm it.
When the gut flora is out of balance, the gut can become inflamed which negatively affects the gut barrier. If this condition becomes chronic, it can present itself as irritable bowel syndrome.
Improve IBS Symptoms and Overall Gut Health
Now, back to the good news. It IS possible to not only keep IBS symptoms in check, but to also achieve optimal gut health.
- Toxins and Antibiotics: The most common recommendation for a healthy gut is to avoid the toxins listed above, particularly antibiotics. Before requesting or accepting an antibiotic, discuss your concerns about gut health with your doctor and determine if an antibiotic is truly needed. If it is, ask about ways to balance gut flora after completing the course of antibiotics.
- Diet and Stress: Eliminating processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar and wheat is quite possibly the best way to improve your gut health and control IBS. Most people experience a dramatic improvement in IBS symptoms and overall wellbeing within weeks of eliminating those foods from their diet. Similarly, people who learn and apply stress-reduction techniques experience positive results that provide motivation to continue efforts.
Work with a Trusted Physician
IBS, like many other conditions, affects each person differently and therefore requires a very personalized approach to care.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.