Definition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is considered by many doctors to be a “functional gastrointestinal disorder that is caused by changes in the digestive system, but no one knows exactly what causes the changes to occur.
Most often the large intestine is affected. This is where the water in the mostly liquid food mass passed from the small intestine is extracted. Due to the water removal from the stool it becomes firmer before being eliminated. If the stool is moving too fast through the large intestine less water is absorbed and diarrhea occurs. If the stool moves too slowly constipation results.
IBS is often associated with other health problems such as:
- interruption of or higher than normal nerve stimulation of the intestines
- anxiety and panic disorder
- infection in the digestive tract
- an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines
- hormone imbalances
- food allergies
IBS normally does not cause permanent harm to the intestines or lead to more serious digestive disorder or diseases. Irritable bowel syndrome is also not the same as inflammatory bowel disease in which the structure of the digestive track is abnormal.
The most common symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- pain and cramping in the abdomen
- changes in the consistency of the stool
- constipation or diarrhea
- gas buildup
- mucus discharge with the stool
Irritable Bowell Syndrome diagnosis is based mostly on symptom identification. Laboratory testing can be conducted to rule out other disorders that might explain the symptoms before the diagnoses of IBS is made.
The latest definition states that if you have had pain or discomfort associated with your intestines or bowels in the last three months, on a least three days a month, over a six month period associated with at least two of the following criteria you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
1. Symptoms improve after a bowel movement
2. When the symptoms begin bowel movements change in frequency
3. When the symptoms begin the appearance of the stool itself changes
Probiotic Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Probiotic Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is becoming recognized as a beneficial treatment for IBS. Recent studies show probiotics may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of IBS. The exact mechanism of action of probiotics hasn’t been positively identified yet, but it’s believed they alter the bacterial makeup in the intestines in a way that helps reduce symptoms.
There are different types of bacteria normally found in the digestive system such as lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilis) and bifidobacteria among others. Probiotics are live microorganisms that have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the mucus lining of the intestines and help reduce any pathogenic bacteria in the intestinal tract. In a study done by the Mississippi Baptist Health Systems the probiotic bacterial Bifidobacterium animalis were found to help reduce the symptoms of constipation in IBS.
The abdominal pain that occurs with IBS is associated with intestinal distension from the build up of gas in the intestines and colon. Probiotics are showing an ability to help reduce abdominal pain in IBS by reducing inflammation and gas formation and increasing the intestine’s ability to move gas out of the intestines.
Most of the evidence relating to the relief from symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are anecdotal. Many people report partial and/or complete relief of their IBS symptoms with the regular use probiotics. More research needs to be done to determine the scientific basis for these reports.
The following video is an overview of the use of probiotics in the treatment of IBS.
Research on the effectiveness of probiotic treatment of digestive system disorders continues. Despite a great deal of anecdotal evidence that probiotics do reduce and in some cases eliminate the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome there are no definitive research results to date clarifying the relationship between the use of probiotics and the elimination of IBS symptoms.
Since the FDA does not regulate the manufacture and distribution of probiotic products there’s no consistent probiotic formulation on the market at this point. Various nutritional supplement companies manufacture and sell their own probiotic formulations which can be purchased most anywhere nutritional supplements are sold.
Probiotic supplements have been shown to be safe to take and usually cause no side effects. If you decide to take them to treat IBS symptoms or other reasons be sure and follow the instructions on the label and contact your physician if you have any problems related to their use.
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