Irritable Bowel - What Helps?

Irritable Bowel - What Helps?

Jul 25, 2022Liza Solodovnikova

Stomach cramps, constipation, and flatulence are unpleasant companions of irritable bowel. If you feel such symptoms, especially if they torment you repeatedly or persistently, they can depress your mood. 

This article will explain when irritable bowel syndrome can be behind these symptoms, what causes it, and how to take action against it.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel is one of the most frequently diagnosed gastrointestinal diseases. An estimated 10% of people worldwide suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS for short. Proportionately more women than men are affected. However, experts warn against hasty conclusions because many of the symptoms that sufferers experience with irritable bowel syndrome also occur with other diseases.

So what's the difference between lousy constipation, diarrhea, or constant gas and irritable bowel syndrome? We speak of irritable bowel syndrome when these criteria apply:

  • Abdominal pain and other intestinal problems such as flatulence and constipation occur for at least three months and are chronic.
  • The bowel movements are changed, and constipation, diarrhea, or both occur alternately.
  • Affected people are severely affected in their daily routine due to the symptoms.
  • Specialists excluded other possible diseases in advance.

Lactose or fructose intolerance is associated with similar symptoms. Therefore, it is advisable to get tested for them. Other diseases should also be clarified in advance by the treating specialist, such as a blood test or a colonoscopy.

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What are the Typical Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The specific symptoms that people experience with irritable bowel syndrome may vary. Nevertheless, some symptoms are typical: diarrhea, constipation, nausea, gas or bloating, the impression of incomplete emptying of the bowels, visibly bloated abdomen, and sometimes cramping abdominal pain. These symptoms can make you feel exhausted, drained, and depressed. Anyone who has ever had severe gastrointestinal complaints can undoubtedly say that quality of life decreases with such symptoms.

What are the Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The causes of irritable bowel syndrome are still being researched. However, one thing is certain: the triggers can be various—for example, stress or a genetic predisposition. Infections or taking antibiotics can also cause irritable bowel syndrome. According to current research, two mechanisms may play a crucial role.

Irritable Bowel and the Abdominal Brain

Irritable bowel syndrome may be caused by misguided communication between the gut and the brain. 

There are many nerve cells in the intestinal wall. That is why the intestinal nervous system is also called the abdominal brain. It sends signals to the autonomic and central nervous systems, forming the so-called gut-brain axis. The intestinal nerves can be permanently irritated for people with irritable bowel problems. And the brain gets the report: Pain!

This trigger is not only a possible explanation for the perception of pain but also, for example, for the connection with other diseases, genetic causes, or the influence on the psyche.

Irritable Bowel and the Intestinal Flora

The microbiome in the gut consists of thousands upon thousands of microorganisms. They contribute to our digestion and form an essential part of our immune system. Researchers have discovered that the intestinal flora of patients with irritable bowel syndrome is altered and out of balance. Certain strains of bacteria are more common, others too rare. It affects our physical and mental well-being.

A trigger for irritable bowel syndrome can therefore be gastrointestinal diseases. After a salmonella infection, the risk of developing irritable bowel disease is eight times higher. Also, when people take antibiotics for a long time, it can attack the bacterial cultures in the gut and cause irritable bowel syndrome. However, it is unclear to the researchers whether a disturbed intestinal flora is a result or the cause of irritable bowel syndrome. In both cases, the symptoms of those affected can often be improved by a balanced bacterial balance in the intestine. 

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What to Do With an Irritable Bowel? – 4 Tips for Your Health

Do the symptoms described above apply to you? We have put together four tips. These can help you find the proper treatment and relieve your symptoms.

Visit the Doctor: Only a doctor can prove the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. It is essential to rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms. A visit to your doctor's office  should be the first step. Together you can search for the causes and suitable treatment.

Intolerance Test: Food intolerance can cause symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome. A test for lactose or fructose intolerance can also clarify the reasons for your symptoms. The advantage here is that if you eliminate foods from your diet containing these substances, your symptoms can quickly disappear.

Probiotics: According to experts, probiotics are a promising option against  irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotic foods contain microorganisms that support a healthy intestinal flora. They are contained in yeast, kefir, or kombucha. Prebiotic foods, on the other hand, are food for bacteria. Examples are fibers such as inulin, which support the intestinal flora.

Appropriate Diet: With the proper diet, you can alleviate symptoms. With an irritable bowel, it is helpful to avoid so-called FODMAPs. FODMAPs are certain carbohydrates that are metabolized by bacteria in the large intestine and thus lead to the typical symptoms. Some fruit, such as apples and pears, for example, are bad for irritable bowel syndrome, as are mushrooms and dairy products with lactose and high-fat meat. Instead, citrus fruits, gluten-free products, and fish are good alternatives.

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Disclaimer: This article is a collaborative effort of the CLAV editorial team, created on the current literature base. All our publications are supplemented with passion and expertise for naturopathy and a healthy lifestyle. Our medical experts approve all texts before publication. Please Note: Dietary supplements are no substitute for a balanced, healthy diet or medical advice.