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IBS bloating comes from gut bacteria: What diet helps?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
IBS bloating and other symptoms from altered gut bacteria: Diet can help significantly

According to new research, there is a clear and direct links between bloating associated with IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, and imbalance of bacteria in the gut. No one knows what causes irritable bowel syndrome, but it is thought to be a combination of emotional and physical problems.

IBS causes changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, cramping and bloating. Symptoms seem to worsen from certain foods. Many researchers believe bacteria in the gut could be the cause of irritable bowel syndrome, but studies to date have failed to prove the link.

Gastroenterologists say the FODMAPs diet is an approach that can control IBS.

Now scientists from the American Gastroenterological Association says there is substantial evidence that the disease, which was also called colitis, spastic colon and mucous colitis in the past, is the result of alteration in gut microbia.

Findings from gastroenterologists that were presented at the Gut Microbiota for Health World Summit in Miami, FL, USA. On March 8-9, 2014 means better treatment options for those who suffer from the condition that affects 20 percent of people in the Western world.

The researchers say IBS was once thought of as a psychological condition that affected anxious people with no detectable bowel abnormalities.

"Thanks to new diagnostic insights and a rapidly growing knowledge about the role and function of the microbial communities living inside our guts, our view on IBS and its causes has changed considerably," says Prof. Barbara, President of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility (ESNM) in a press release.

In other words, IBS is influenced by an imbalance of healthy versus unhealthy bacteria in the gut.

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That also suggests antibiotics used to treat IBS could make symptoms worse by tipping the balance of intestinal bacteria, Barbara notes. "Probably the best example of this interaction is the discovery that IBS symptoms develop in up to 10 percent of previously healthy subjects after a single episode of gastroenteritis caused by an infection through bacterial pathogens like Salmonella, Shigella or Campylobacter, which can severely disrupt the microbiota balance,"

Foods that help IBS

The scientists also explain IBS gets worse from changing gut microbes for people with the condition. But others without IBS don't seem to seem to have the same changes in bacteria from eating the same types of foods.

Bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome worsens for some with carbohydrates, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, corn, peas, wheat and beans, to name a few foods. Fiber can also produce excess gas and bloating for patients with IBS.

"On the other hand, we now know for sure that diets containing low fiber content improve these symptoms significantly. Recent research results suggest that, compared to a normal Western diet, a diet low in so-called FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) reduces symptoms of IBS, including bloating, pain and passage of wind," says Prof. Barbara.

Read more about the diet here.

Barbara also points out gut bacteria is more severely altered in people with several symptoms of IBS that are clear-cut compared to patients with fewer symptoms but who also have mood disorders.

Scientists know anxiety can make symptoms worse, but the researchers say mood disturbance doesn't change the intestinal flora - meaning IBS is a physiologic, not a psychological disease.

"It is amazing to see how quickly gut microbiota research has gained center stage within gastroenterology in the course of the past few years," says Prof. Barbara, who adds what lives in our gut is also "crucial" for gastrointestinal health in general. Barbara says the next important step is identifying various functions of bacteria in the intestines that would have clinical applications once researchers understand how gut microbes function to keep us healthy.

American Gastroenterological Society
March 10, 2014