Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms can vary from one person to the next, which can make them difficult to diagnose in some cases. This IBS Awareness Month, we want to help you understand the symptoms of IBS, so you know what’s going on in your gut. With our in-house nutritional therapist Elizabeth, we have looked at the most common IBS symptoms, what can potentially cause them, and how we can treat them. Elizabeth has also set the facts straight on a few IBS myths that we frequently see, which we’re sure you’ll find interesting.
What are the common IBS symptoms?
The symptoms of IBS can be different for everyone. However, typical IBS symptoms consist of the following (but are not limited to):
- abdominal discomfort and/or cramps/spasms
- mucous in stools
- constipation or diarrhoea (or alternating between the two)
- nausea and/or loss of appetite
Another one of the common symptoms of IBS that sufferers report is a need to empty their bowels as a matter of urgency, only to find that it is only mucus that they have passed, leaving them with a sensation of incomplete evacuation (and disappointment). Meanwhile, other less common IBS symptoms include joint and muscle pain, headaches, bad breath, urinary incontinence, and fatigue.
IBS flare-up symptoms: where do they come from?
An IBS flare-up (also referred to as an IBS attack) is when the symptoms and/or intensity of IBS suddenly increases, sometimes without warning. With an IBS flare-up, symptoms can be exacerbated over a period of a few hours, but can last months or even years if not addressed. It’s common to have good days and bad days with IBS, when symptoms may be better or worse than normal, or even just more manageable.
An IBS flare up can be triggered by many factors, such as:
- Diet: wheat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods are common culprits
- Lifestyle: stress and anxiety
- Dysbiosis: an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria
How can IBS symptoms be treated?
Since there is no known cure or definitive cause for the condition, and as IBS symptoms can vary so broadly between individuals, treatment of IBS tends to focus on managing the symptoms.
Many people find that improvements to diet and lifestyle can provide some relief of IBS symptoms. Finding ways to manage stress and/or eliminating trigger foods may also help to alleviate or improve common symptoms of IBS. Keeping a food diary can be useful in helping to identify which foods/beverages may exacerbate symptoms.
Some people regularly take self-prescribed over-the-counter medications to help manage their IBS symptoms. This approach can be useful in the short term but, as with many medications, side effects are common and can produce their own set of symptoms. For example, anti-diarrhoea medication can produce strong cramping pains and regular use of laxatives can lead to the bowel becoming more sluggish and increased dependence on the medication.
Functional medicine practitioners use a systems biology-based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. For IBS, a 4-step plan called the 4-R programme is usually implemented, which focuses on identifying and removing dietary and lifestyle factors that may be damaging the gut, replacing missing factors and adding in gut healing nutrients for repair.
How can our aguulp products target specific symptoms?
Most symptoms of IBS can be traced back to an imbalance of the gut microbiome, so working to rectify/replenish levels of healthy bacteria in the gut is always a good place to start with any IBS symptom.
Aguulp Synbiotic contains both pre and probiotics in a high dose, which are designed to work synergistically together to target any gut microbial imbalance (dysbiosis). Prebiotics act as a food source to the healthy bacteria already residing in the gut. Probiotics act as the external supply of the live, good gut bacteria, helping to address any imbalance of good versus bad bacteria in the gut.
In terms of specific potential IBS symptoms, an imbalance of the gut microbiome has been specifically associated with constipation.
aguulp daily synbiotic contains key ingredients that have been shown to be specifically effective for helping to alleviate constipation. For example, probiotics such as:
- Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli have been shown to help produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which can help stimulate peristalsis (movement), reduce colonic transit time, and bowel regularity
- Lactobacillus plantarum has been shown to be particularly useful and effective in managing functional constipation disorders
- L. rhamnosus helps increase the production of SCFAs
aguulp daily synbiotic also contains ingredients that have been shown to help reduce bloating. For example:
- L. acidophilus is a highly researched probiotic strain that has been found to support digestive enzymes including lactase & α-glucosidase, which are involved in the breakdown of lactose in milk & starch. If foods are not broken down properly, this can lead to fermentation and the build-up of gas in the stomach, leading to symptoms of bloating.
- The L. plantarum strain of bacteria is associated with improvements in abdominal bloating in those treated for gastro-intestinal disorders.
- FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides) has been shown to help stimulate the growth of non- pathogenic gut bacteria, helping to minimise the bad bacteria that can contribute to bloating.
aguulp for gut product may be particularly useful since it contains ingredients which studies have shown can help to reduce or improve this particular symptom, which can be one of the most common IBS symptoms. For example:
- XOS: regulates composition of gut bacteria (increasing levels of beneficial bacteria), reducing inflammation and suppressing intestinal permeability
- L-Glutamine: effective in improving symptoms in IBS (D) following intestinal infection
- Zinc: shown to be effective in reducing severity and duration of diarrheoa episodes
- Vitamin D: a deficiency of this nutrient has been associated with viral diarrheoa
In addition to the above, aguulp for gut provides prebiotics combined with an array of other ingredients which may work to help tackle other IBS symptoms and covers many of the aspects of the 4R programme that is used by Functional Medicine Practitioners to target the root cause of IBS. We also know that the gut microbiota can have a positive effect on mental health, including stress and anxiety, which is often implicated in IBS.
Other examples of how aguulp for gut can help are:
- Prebiotics: will help to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, helping to address any issues of dysbiosis by replenishing levels of healthy bacteria.
- L-Glutamine: an amino acid that has been shown to help maintain the health of the digestive tract. By providing energy to the digestive cells, it is directly involved in the regeneration and renewal of cells, helping to strengthen and repair the lining of the digestive tract which is important in IBS since the lining of the digestive tract can become damaged, leading to intestinal permeability (absorption) issues.
- Zinc: believed to play an important role in the health of the digestive tract as well as having a protective effect against diarrhoea (as mentioned above) and other gastrointestinal ailments. Zinc is also required for collagen formation.
- Collagen: plays a role in the repair and healing of the intestinal lining, aids digestion and helps regulate stomach acid secretion which can all be helpful in managing the symptoms and addressing some of the potential underlying causes of IBS.
Common IBS Myths – Busted
Myth- IBS is the same for everyone
False– There is a very broad spectrum of IBS symptoms, which vary from one person to the next and every individual’s symptoms can be different. Individuals can experience any combination of any of the symptoms on the spectrum. Furthermore, IBS can be categorised into different subtypes depending on the type of presenting and predominant symptom. For example, IBS (D) indicates a diarrhoea-predominant type of IBS. IBS (C) is based on the presentation of regularity issues and constipation. IBS (A) is representative of an IBS presentation with alternating diarrhoea and constipation, but any one of these subtypes can be accompanied by any of the other IBS symptoms on the spectrum, and therefore the likelihood is that no two IBS sufferers will experience the exact same symptoms of IBS.
Myth- IBS is a medically diagnosed disease
False– Unlike IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease), IBS is not a medically diagnosed disease but a collection of symptoms that has been given the term ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome’. IBS is diagnosed either by stool test or by symptoms alone and usually only once medical tests rule out any other reason for the symptoms. IBS is in fact classified as a Functional Gastro- intestinal Disorder (FGID) as opposed to being classified as a gastro- intestinal disease.
Myth- IBS is a condition in its own right
False- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a term given to a broad range or collection of symptoms and is not a condition in its own right.
Myth– Getting diagnosed or treated involves a lot of tests
False- Diagnosis is usually determined by the presenting symptoms or after other conditions have been excluded by tests and investigations. Currently, there isn’t a specific test for IBS diagnosis however stool testing can help to identify potential bacterial, parasitic or fungal infection or gut dysbiosis as a trigger. Treatment usually involves the implementation of dietary and lifestyle strategies and the use of natural substances/ supplements to help target and support particular aspects of gut health. .
Myth- IBS is caused by stress
True–Indeed, stress can be one of many contributing factors to IBS symptoms. This is because both the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected – so intimately that they should be viewed as one system. Both the gut and brain are connected by the same nerve-known as the ‘vagus’ nerve and therefore the GI tract is very sensitive to our emotions. This is why feelings such as fear, excitement, nervousness, anger and sadness can trigger symptoms in the gut. Read more about the gut-brain axis.
Myth- IBS and IBD are the same thing
False– IBS should not be confused with IBD, which refers to inflammatory bowel disease and includes conditions such as Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms can be similar in both IBD and IBS which can be confusing but it is important to get the right diagnosis in order to get the right treatment.
Myth- IBS is a rare condition
False- According to research, next to the common cold, digestive problems are the most common reason people seek medical advice with IBS being the second biggest cause of absenteeism from work. It is estimated that around 20% of the UK population are now suffering with the symptoms of IBS, of which most are women aged between 15-45 years of age, although it can affect all age groups from infants to the elderly age according to research. Although IBS does not pose a threat to life, it can seriously affect the quality of life for some.
Want to know more about your gut health? Take our gut health quiz.
Have more questions on IBS? Ask our experts
If you have any questions regarding IBS, our gut supplements, gut health, or even general health, send us a message on [email protected] and one of our in-house experts will be more than happy to help. We also have our very own Aguulp Gut Support Facebook group, where you can discuss gut, IBS, or general health problems freely without judgement. You can also sign up to our Aguulp gut health newsletter.
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