Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be debilitating condition consisting of cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS can affect and one’s work, sleep and relationships.

The gastrointestinal tract is considered to be the body’s ‘second brain,’ it is made up of a self-contained, complex network of neurons, neurotransmitters, and proteins embedded in the lining of the GI system. It is responsible for all aspects of the digestive process, from the esophagus to the stomach and small and large intestines.

New research published last Friday in the Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics demonstrated that there is a distinct brain-gut pathway (psychological symptoms begin first) as well as a separate gut-brain pathway (gut symptoms begin first). There are several studies that have been done that show this new gut to brain pathway.

In this study, higher levels of anxiety and depression were significant predictors of developing IBS within 1 year. In addition, individuals who did not have elevated levels of anxiety and depression at the start of the study but had documented IBS had significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression after 1 year.

The researchers determined that in 1/3 of patients, a mood disorder precedes IBS and in the other 2/3 of patients, the IBS precedes the mood disorder.

These results reveal how some patients with IBS have a gastrointestinal disorder that may not only explain their gut symptoms but also their psychological symptoms.

It is common knowledge that diet is the most effective means to returning balance within the gastrointestinal system. One may need a combination of botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics to optimize the gastrointestinal environment. Certain diagnostic tests may also be beneficial, including stool testing as well as food antibody testing.

According to a recent clinical trial published in Gastroenterology, researchers at University of Michigan’s Health System demonstrated that a low FODMAP diet significantly helped those with IBS. This study measured the degree of relief from a low FODMAP diet and demonstrated improvement in symptoms as well as an increased quality of life in patients with IBS.

There are other nutrients that can support patient with IBS. For example. Perilla frutescens is an herb native to Eastern Asia that demonstrates antispasmodic, prokinetic, and anti-inflammtory effects, which help normalize and promote health bowel function and provide relief from GI symptoms. In addition, there are some specific researched strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that have been shown to reduce digestive discomfort and abdominal pain in individuals with IBS. Also. 5-HTP is a dominant neurotransmitter in the enteric nervous system. It plays an important role in pain perception, sleep patterns, and is important for digestion. 5-HTP also has benefits on reduction of anxiety.

In addition, Saccharomyces boulardii is also great to use in combination for this. S. boulardii has been tested for clinical efficacy in numerous gastrointestinal conditions, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, Clostridium difficile infection, acute diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, traveler’s diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Helicobacter pylori infections.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: N. A. Koloski, M. Jones, N. J. Talley. Evidence that independent gut-to-brain and brain-to-gut pathways operate in the irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia: a 1-year population-based prospective study. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2016; DOI:10.1111/apt.13738

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