Low FODMAP Diet & Digestive Health News
With the public’s growing concern for eating healthy and more awareness about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), we are seeing a greater focus on digestive health. Amidst the publishing of new research and the release of new products targeted at improving digestive health, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date. Here are this week’s highlights.
Emotions Affect Gut Bacteria
Most of us have experienced this, but we might not have known exactly what was going on. The nausea when you are nervous or the stomach pain when you’re stressed is a great example of the mind-gut connection at play. There is new research by the Healthy Help Corporation Company that supports how strong the link is between our mind and our gut. Researcher Jose Sanchez noted that IBS is a prime example of this relationship, with symptoms often worsening due to anxiety or stress.
New Drug for IBS-C
Ironwood Pharmaceuticals is in the midst of testing a new drug for people living with IBS-C. The drug is a linaclotide-based medication that eases abdominal pain and helps with constipation. Although researchers are not exactly sure how linaclotide works, they believe it decreases the activity of pain-sensing nerves and increases fluid transport into the gut. The study found that those taking the drug had a 56% decrease in abdominal pain.
Breath Test Diagnosis for IBS
This story may seem like it’s straight out of a science fiction movie, but it could be the way disease, including IBS, is diagnosed in the future. Dr. Hossam Haick at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, developed a sensor that is able to analyze a person’s breath and diagnose their condition with 86% accuracy! How cool is that! Hossam and his team studied 17 conditions, including IBS. They discovered that each condition has a unique “breath fingerprint” that enables them to classify it. What’s exciting about the possibility of diagnosing IBS with this new technology is how quickly and easily it can be done, and how minimally invasive it is compared to a colonoscopy or blood test. Since this research is still in its infancy, there is a long way to go before it becomes standard practice, but it sure is exciting news for the future!
Mindfulness Meditation Beneficial for IBS
You may have seen a few articles pop up lately about mindfulness meditation, and for good reason. Research keeps supporting the power of becoming more self-aware and present in our daily lives. Mindfulness is often defined as “paying attention…on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally”. Studies have linked it to helping with numerous conditions from depression to lowering cholesterol levels. The common thread between all these conditions is the ability of meditation to help lower our stress levels. Since stress is a common trigger for IBS, finding ways to reduce our stress levels can greatly reduce the chances of flare-ups. Additionally, studies have investigated how stress affects the bacteria in our gut through the stress response, further illustrating the importance of self-care in the management of IBS symptoms.
SIBO: The Disease that Can Lead to Serious Gut Issues
In the health segment of the Green Bay News, reporters focused on an unfamiliar condition known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). The small intestine does not naturally contain as much bacteria, or the same types of bacteria, which are found in a healthy colon. It is the imbalance and overgrowth of bacteria from the colon into the small intestine that can lead to SIBO. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and bloating. It can be tricky to diagnose because symptoms are similar to other digestive disorders like IBS. People who have recently undergone gastric bypass surgery are more likely to end up with SIBO because they may lose the valve that separates the colon from the small intestine.
Guide to Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Dr. Peter Whorwell has been researching IBS for over 30 years. Through his consultations with patients and the research he has conducted, he has noticed that certain issues keep popping up. Some of these issues include:
More women being affected by IBS: The reasons why women are twice as likely to suffer from IBS are unknown, but Dr. Whorwell believes hormones are to blame. He explains that “female hormones have an affect on the gastrointestinal system, so men are protected”.
Fibre: Doctors routinely tell patients with IBS to “eat more fibre”, however this could make symptoms worse. Whorwell’s advice is to determine your fibre tolerance. Some people may find that their symptoms get worse with more fibre or they only tolerate certain forms of fibre.
FODMAPs: If you have IBS you most likely have issues with FODMAPs.
Stress: Dr. Whorwell tells his patients that stress can influence their intolerance to certain foods. That’s why reducing stress is an important strategy.
Alternative therapy: At the University Hospital of South Manchester where Dr. Whorwell conducts his research, his unit offers patients with IBS hypnotherapy to manage stress. He claims that the sessions use deep relaxation and visualization to teach people techniques to manage their symptoms.
Correct diagnosis: Dr. Whorwell says that it is important to receive a diagnosis from your doctor to help you choose the right course of action to manage your condition. Many digestive health issues including celiac disease, have similar symptoms to IBS.
The Canadian Society of Intestinal Research IBS Survey
The Canadian Society of Intestinal Research (CSIR) recently conducted a survey to learn more about the lives of Canadians living with IBS. Over 2,900 people across Canada provided insight on the condition and their quality of life.
More than Half of Canadians with IBS have Suffered for Over 10 Years
When we look at the characteristics of the sample population who responded to the survey, we see that the majority were women (86%) between the ages of 30-69 who characterized their IBS as IBS-D (35%) or IBS-M (41%). Further, 53% of respondents stated they have been living with IBS for more than 10 years.
Dealing with IBS Symptoms
One of the key characteristics of IBS is abdominal pain. Researchers wanted to quantify the severity and frequency of pain people experienced to understand how their IBS is affecting their life. Not surprisingly, people rated their pain between moderate to severe. Many people with IBS can attest to the crippling pain they feel during a flare-up. What may surprise you is the shear number of people that said they could not leave their homes due to the pain they experienced. Approximately, 37% reported having to stay home due to their IBS symptoms, especially for those with IBS-D. At least half of the people that responded said they missed one or more days of work or school in a 3-month period due to their symptoms.
Managing IBS with Other Medical Conditions
IBS is a challenging condition to manage on its own but many respondents have other medical conditions as well. Additional conditions can complicate IBS management if they require dietary changes or medication. Common conditions that co-exist with IBS are anxiety and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The majority of respondents were taking one or two medications to manage their IBS symptoms, however most were not seeing a doctor or health care professional regularly to help with symptom relief.
The Importance of Managing Abdominal Pain
The survey’s main recommendation is to find a way to manage abdominal pain. Due to the reality that it is usually abdominal pain that causes the most discomfort, often times it is this symptom which can prevent you from doing the activities you enjoy. The survey did not ask participants about their diets or alternative therapies they were using. It would be interesting to compare which diets, medications, and alternative therapies participants were using and compare this information to their symptom ratings.
The take-home message from this survey is that debilitating abdominal pain is preventing people from enjoying their life. IBS can be very isolating, and many people seem to be attempting to manage their condition on their own. This survey highlights the work that needs to be done by health care professionals to encourage people to see specialists, especially dietitians. There is also a greater need to understand the impact of managing other conditions alongside IBS. Mental health can significantly impact our gut and vice versa, so the importance of promoting stress reducing activities, like yoga, must be emphasized as these practices can dramatically improve one’s quality of life.
Written by Adi Hazlewood, News and Culture Editor
- Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. 2016. Gastrointestinal Society 2016 IBS Survey Results
- SB Wire. 2016. Study reveal emotions affect our gut flora.
- Newswire. 2016. Joint trial with Allergan shows reduced abdominal pain.
- Siegel-Itzkovich C. The Jerusalum Post. 2016. Will you soon be diagnosed by just breathing?
- Leech J. Care 2. 2016. Proven benefits of mindfulness meditation.
- Boutott C. We are Green Bay. 2016. Healthwatch: SIBO: The mystery disease wrecking your gut.
- Lambert C. Well and Good. 2016. A guide to the fundamentals dos and don’ts for IBS sufferers.