IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, affects over 10% of the population and can cause gas, bloating, abdominal pain, loose stool and constipation. Let’s discuss some simple yet effective strategies for managing IBS.
Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, this is Dr. Ruscio. And let’s discuss some simple solutions for IBS. IBS is also known as irritable bowel syndrome. And some of the typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can include gas; bloating; abdominal pain; altered bowel function which can look like constipation, loose stools, or diarrhea; and potentially indigestion.
And IBS is pretty common. It can affect over 10% of the population. And it’s important that we understand some ways of simply managing IBS because there are some fairly simple management strategies.
First, let’s discuss dietary and lifestyle options. Lifestyle may sound kind of obvious. But it’s worth mentioning that obtaining the appropriate amount of sleep and managing your stress are very important. Lack of sleep has been shown to provoke IBS, as has stress.
So do your best to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night on average and to manage and mitigate any excessive stress that you have in your life. I get that sometimes that’s easier said than done. But do your best.
Regarding diet, there are two diets available that I’d recommend starting with. One is the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet essentially cuts out certain foods that may provoke or worsen IBS. Typical food allergens or food intolerances, using those terms loosely — things like gluten and grains, dairy, added sugar, processed foods, soy. For different people, these foods may represent a problem.
So trying the Paleo Diet for 2 or 3 weeks and then reevaluating your IBS is a good method. If it’s working for you, you should have a noticeable improvement in your IBS. And if it’s not, you can try a different diet.
There’s another diet known as the low FODMAP diet. Now, the low FODMAP diet is a little bit different in the sense that it restricts compounds known as FODMAPs which are essentially compounds in food that feed bacteria. And excessive bacteria may be responsible for many cases of IBS. And so this low FODMAP diet restricts high FODMAP foods that can feed bacteria and therefore make the underlying cause of the IBS worse.
It’s very easy to look up on the internet a food list of what you can eat on that diet. Follow that diet for about 2 to 3 weeks. And if it’s working for you, you should notice pretty appreciable improvement in just a few weeks.
Now, a few other things, should diet and lifestyle not work adequately. You can try probiotics. There are a few different — well, there are many different probiotics on the market. But there are maybe three main classes.
The first is a lactobacillus/bifidobacterium blend. And this is probably the most well-studied in IBS and has been shown to be generally effective. If you look on the label, you’ll see mostly lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains listed. That’s a lactobacillus/bifidobacterium-type probiotic.
There’s another class known as Saccharomyces boulardii. And this is actually a healthy type of fungus. And there are some impressive trials with this type of probiotic in IBS also.
A third class is known as soil-based organisms. And when you look on the label here, you’ll see things like Bacillus strains are often what are listed there. So look for Bacillus or soil-based probiotic or spore-forming probiotic. And we’ll put some links in here to guide you to specific product recommendations that help.
Probiotic Supplement Protocol*
Click on the supplement names for more information.
Try to take away from anti-microbials if possible, if you are on them
*Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only. You should consult with your doctor before using any of these products.
There are also enzymes that can be used. And I use the term enzymes loosely to refer to hydrochloric acid (which is a digestive acid released by the stomach), pancreatic enzymes, and bile — different types of secretions that your digestive organs secrete to help you break down food.
If people are deficient in these, that can also provoke the symptoms of IBS. So try a probiotic. Give that a week or so. If that’s helping, great. Continue. And if you’re not getting adequate resolution with everything else, you may want to try an enzyme formula and see if that helps you.
Now, by doing all those things, you have a fairly high probability of seeing pretty noticeable improvement in your IBS. However, if not, there is some testing that you may want to undergo.
A breath test can be done for what’s known as SIBO (S-I-B-O) which stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. And depending on the research study you look at, anywhere from 4 to about 84% of IBS may actually be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Now, some of the interventions we talked about a moment ago can help with that. But if you have not responded well to those other interventions, you test for SIBO, you test positive, then this is something you can speak with your doctor about undergoing treatment for.
And there’s also what’s termed as dysbiosis which are other bacterial and fungal problems which can be assessed a number of ways. But stool testing tends to be a pretty safe bet there.
So there are some dietary and lifestyle interventions you can try—Paleo Diet, low FODMAP, stress, and sleep. You can also try one or a combination of the available probiotics that are out there. And you can also try an enzyme formula. Should all those fail, you can have a test for SIBO and for general dysbiosis and treat any findings that are uncovered there. With all these things together, you have a very high probability of success with IBS.
So this is Dr. Ruscio. And I hope this information helps you get healthy and get back to your life. Thanks!
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