Probiotics and IBS

Probiotics and IBS

Probiotics and IBS

If you are going to try any sort of supplement, always discuss with your doctor and nutrition professional first. This post is for general information purposes only, is not meant to diagnose or treat, and is in no way a replacement for consulting a medical professional.

 

What are probiotics?

Our gut is home to millions and millions of bacteria – in fact the number of bacteria in your gut is higher than the number of cells in the human body! The total weight of them can even come to 1.5kg / 4lbs. It’s generally agreed that there are about 500-1000 different types of bacteria in our gut, and for a healthy individual we have a harmonious relationship with these guys.

These bacteria are vital to our health; they help maintain the health of the cells in the gut lining, they support our immune function in the gastrointestinal tract (which is where the bulk of our immune system is located!), they aid in the digestion and absorption of key nutrients, and they even produce some nutrients that our body cannot produce itself – making these available for us.

Probiotics are essentially supplements of specific types of the “good guy” bacteria. The idea is that in taking them, you may be boosting the population of the good bacteria, which would help if your body’s balance of bacteria in the gut is off.

You can also find natural sources of probiotics in certain foods, namely fermented foods, like yogurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and other pickled vegetables.

When it comes to supplementation specifically, most research has centered on two main families of bacteria: lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. However, the specific strains/sub-strains of bacteria are going to vary from product to product. Some supplements will just be one specific strain, some may be a mix, and the overall quantity of bacteria can also vary.

 

Should I be supplementing with probiotics for IBS?

One theory is that symptoms of IBS such as gas, may develop due to an imbalance of “good vs. bad” bacteria in the gut. However, actual clinical results have been mixed and largely inconclusive as to whether probiotics are effective in reducing IBS symptoms.

When it comes to our gut microbiome, in general the composition of it is fairly similar between healthy individuals. But when it comes to an unbalanced microbiome, every person’s tends to be unique. Therefore, it’s difficult to judge whether or not a probiotic will be effective.

Since the bacteria in the probiotic are meant to be alive, it’s also difficult to say how many – if any – actually make it through the digestive system and to the large intestine still alive. And a small study done on off-the-shelf probiotic supplements found that 50% of those tested were actually already dead even before use! Since there’s very little regulation in the industry, whether you’re getting what you paid for can be questionable.

The American Gastroenterological Association has recently come out with revised recommendations stating that there is insufficient evidence to recommend probiotics for IBS.

However, a low-FODMAP diet for as little as 4 weeks has been seen to already impact the balance of bacteria in the gut in a negative direction. But research done at King’s College in the UK has shown that taking a probiotic may help rebalance the gut microbiome after following a low-FODMAP diet.

Overall, if you’re going to try supplementing with a probiotic, keep your expectations realistic and only expect a mild improvement, if any.

 

Considerations for supplementing with probiotics for IBS

Start with the natural sources in fermented foods! Ease into it over time, as going for a too-large portion size right away could cause digestive distress. Keep in mind that some probiotic-rich foods could be high in FODMAPs.

If you try a supplement, you can also ease into in it by starting with lower amounts. Research suggests that it is more beneficial to focus on one specific strain of bacteria at first, rather than choosing one with many different types.

Give yourself at least a month (one full female hormone cycle) to judge whether or not they are making a difference. They should be taken just before or during a meal (of course always follow the label’s instructions).

If you don’t see an improvement – stop taking them! You don’t want to be wasting your money. You could also try switching to a different strain of bacteria.

 

Final thoughts

As always, consult your doctor before taking any sort of supplement! If you have a known immune deficiency, have cancer or are undergoing cancer treatment, or have short gut syndrome, you shouldn’t be taking probiotics. 

There is no research on long-term probiotic use, so taking them for a longer period isn’t recommended.

There is no magical pill that replaces doing the work – and this includes probiotics!

Any supplementation should generally be a second line of support after working with a professional on establishing a healthy, balanced diet and making positive lifestyle changes to address your specific IBS symptom triggers. Always discuss diet and lifestyle changes, as well as supplementation, with your doctor prior to starting.

 

Ready to create a concrete plan for reducing your IBS symptoms like bloating, pain, and gas? Want to understand what is triggering your symptoms, finally start feeling comfortable in your body again, and stop feeling anxious whenever you leave the house?

Apply now for a free Breakthrough Session to talk about how we can get you there!

Digestive Enzymes and IBS

Digestive Enzymes and IBS

Digestive Enzymes and IBS

If you are going to try any sort of supplement, always discuss with your doctor and nutrition professional first. This post is for general information purposes only, is not meant to diagnose or treat, and is in no way a replacement for consulting a medical professional.

 

What are digestive enzymes?

Enzymes are a specific type of protein and act as a chemical catalyst in the body. Digestive enzymes are the group that break down the food we eat into smaller molecules to eventually be absorbed and used by the body. 

Most digestive enzymes are made by the pancreas and during digestion are secreted into the small intestine. But some are also made by the salvatory glands (so are present in our saliva), and by the cells lining the stomach and small intestine.

Each digestive enzyme has its own specific target, for example:

  • Amylase targets carbohydrates, breaking down complex sugars into simple sugars
  • Lipase targets fats, breaking them down into fatty acids and glycerol
  • Pepsin targets proteins, breaking them down into peptides

These are just a few examples of the many digestive enzymes our body produces. One that you may be more familiar with is lactase. This is the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose (milk sugar) into glucose and galactose. The lack of this enzyme in some people is what lies behind lactose intolerance! (Keep in mind this is not the same as with a true dairy allergy.)

 

Should I be supplementing with digestive enzymes for IBS?

Supplementation of digestive enzymes originally started namely for people with pancreatic insufficiency – these people were unable to produce enough of their own digestive enzymes in the pancreas.

There’s some, albeit limited, research that certain digestive enzymes could beneficial for people with IBS. The theory being that they can help with indigestion and cut down on the chance of IBS symptoms being triggered by poorly digested food.

However, regulation in the digestive enzyme industry is very poor, and many products on the market lack scientific evidence backing up their beneficial claims. Since enzymes are a type of protein, in many cases there is no proof that these enzymes even reach the small intestine intact – they may be digested themselves in the process!

If you are going to try a supplement, always discuss with your doctor and nutrition professional first. Make sure to choose one that has research showing its benefits specifically for IBS symptoms. Take them following the label’s instructions (generally before and/or during a meal).

Supplements can be pricey, so take the time to evaluate whether you are experiencing any benefit from it after a consistent trial period of a month. If you don’t notice the benefit, don’t waste your money!

 

Types of digestive enzymes for IBS

Lactase (commonly found as the brand Lactaid)

This is a digestive enzyme that aids in the breakdown of the milk sugar, lactose. Studies have shown it can reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance that many people with IBS struggle with.

 

Alpha-galactosidase

Around 2/3 of people with IBS have been found to be sensitive to a FODMAP subcategory called GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides). GOS are commonly found in foods like lentils and legumes, cashews, and pistachios. The digestive enzyme alpha-galactosidase has been shown to reduce symptoms of IBS like bloating, abdominal distension, and gas.

 

Biointol

Biointol is a combination of different digestive enzymes along with some soluble fibers. A study on IBS patients showed improvement on symptoms like bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, with a slight increase in urgency of bowel movements. However, the study was a fairly small group and there was no placebo group. More research still needs to be done.

 

Pancreatic lipase (PEZ)

A small study on a group of people with diarrhea predominant IBS showed improvement in symptoms like cramping, stomach rumbling, bloating, urgency of bowel movements, pain, and loose stools. More research still needs to be done.

 

Final thoughts

Digestive enzymes could be helpful for some people with IBS. Take care which ones you are taking and make sure to choose ones that have credible research and proven results on IBS symptoms. Some digestive enzymes can come from animal-based sources, so make sure to check the label if you require a vegan/vegetarian product.

Remember that some digestive enzymes, like lactase, are very specific, and so their effectiveness is going to rely on whether or not you’re consuming food that contains that substance. This is why knowing what your food triggers are is so important! 

There is no magical pill that replaces doing the work – and this includes digestive enzymes!

Any supplementation should generally be a second line of support after working with a professional on establishing a healthy, balanced diet and making positive lifestyle changes to address your specific IBS symptom triggers. Always discuss diet and lifestyle changes, as well as supplementation, with your doctor prior to starting.

 

Ready to create a concrete plan for reducing your IBS symptoms like bloating, pain, and gas? Want to understand what is triggering your symptoms, finally start feeling comfortable in your body again, and stop feeling anxious whenever you leave the house?

Apply now for a free Breakthrough Session to talk about how we can get you there!

What’s the deal with gluten?

What’s the deal with gluten?

What's the deal with Gluten?

Have you ever wondered what the deal is with gluten, and how come so many people are against it?

On social media these days, it seems like it’s healthy eating 101 to cut the stuff out – but is it necessary?

Or perhaps you’ve already cut it out, but yet your IBS symptoms are still sticking around.

Now I know I might ruffle some feathers with the following statement, but…

…research hasn’t shown any sizeable link between gluten and IBS symptoms (when celiac disease, the autoimmune condition related to gluten, is properly controlled for).


However, many people do report anecdotally that their symptoms have lessened when cutting it out.

The thing is, it might have nothing to do with gluten!

Many gluten containing foods also contain fructans – a FODMAP! Where gluten is a type of protein, fructans are a type of carbohydrate – specifically a long chain of fructose molecules.

This is why you might still experience symptoms when ditching the gluten – fructans are found in more foods than just wheat, like onions and garlic.

And the good news is, most people with IBS can tolerate some fructans in smaller servings. For example, a couple slices of sourdough bread or a small side of pasta likely is low enough in fructans for many IBS-sufferers to tolerate – even though they contain gluten!

This is just yet another example of how individualized IBS triggers can be. What works for one person might not for you.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t tend to be one, overarching catalyst triggering your symptoms, regardless of whether you find yourself sensitive to gluten and/or fructans.

(As an aside, if you suspect you’re sensitive to gluten, be sure to be properly screened for celiac disease by your doctor.)

Check out this week’s video below to dive deeper:

What are FODMAPs?

What are FODMAPs?

What are FODMAPs?

What are FODMAPs?

You’ve maybe heard this strange term floating around, especially if you have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). But what does it actually mean?!

FODMAPs is an acronym that stands for:

Fermentable

Oligosaccharides

Disaccharides

Monosaccharides

And

Polyols

While these are perfectly healthy nutrients, foods that contain these substances can sometimes cause a flare-up of symptoms in people with IBS. (But note that FODMAPs do not cause IBS!)

Check out the video to learn more.

 

What is IBS?

What is IBS?

What is IBS?

Do you have IBS?

Odds are, even if you don’t, then you know someone who does. There are estimates that up to even 1 in 5 people may suffer from it!

It’s also highly likely that if someone you know has IBS they just aren’t talking about it. The symptoms are really something people like to discuss about openly and can make sufferers feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. 

Irritable bowel syndrome can greatly impact the person’s daily activities and quality of life. There’s a lot of stress and uncertainty around where and when they may experience a flare-up of symptoms. 

So they definitely need an extra dose of understanding and empathy!

 

Why you probably need to eat more veggies

Why you probably need to eat more veggies

Why you probably need to eat more veggies

Vegetables are pretty much the only part of our diet that have never really come under question from a nutritional standpoint. Everyone more or less unanimously agrees that they are an essential part of a healthy diet.

Veggies are an amazing source of essential vitamins and minerals, are a great source of fiber which is important for our digestive health, and also contain a variety of phytonutrients that contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and other disease fighting properties.

Vitamins & Minerals

While many of the vitamins & minerals you find in veggies can also be obtained elsewhere, there is no other source that offers such bang for your buck. That is to say, you get an incredible number of these vitamins and minerals for a relatively low amount of calories. In fact this is one of the most trickiest combinations to create with today’s modern diet – getting the required amounts of vitamins and minerals into your diet without over consuming the number of calories your body requires. If you’re not eating enough veggies, then the chance is high that you aren’t hitting the requirements your body needs.

Our body relies on vitamins and minerals for a whole variety of different functions, from energy production to our nervous system and immune system, and we need to obtain them from our food. Not all vitamins and minerals can be stored by the body, which is why it’s important to be consistently consuming vegetables to keep our needs met.

The main vitamins and minerals you’ll receive from vegetables are: vitamin A (as its precursor, beta-carotene), vitamin C, the B vitamins (except B12), vitamin K, calcium, chromium, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and sulphur.

Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients can only be found by consuming plants, and these compounds are what give fruits and veggies their vibrant colours. By figuratively “eating the rainbow” when it comes to veggies, you’re ensuring you get a wide variety of these health protecting nutrients!

So far there have been more than 5000 phytonutrients identified, but scientists are still working to figure out exactly what role they play in our health. What has been seen already is that individual phytonutrients themselves don’t have such a strong effect on our body, but multiple in unison do, as it occurs in nature, which is why it’s much more important to eat vegetables in their whole form rather than using supplements.

Phytonutrients aren’t considered essential, unlike vitamins and minerals, but their health protecting abilities make them an important component of our diet. They have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, help reduce inflammation, protect our immune system, help prevent chronic diseases, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A wide variety of vegetables across different vegetable families is also important, as phytonutrients within families tend to be fairly similar. Research has shown that a wide variety of many different phytonutrients is more important that a large quantity of only a few.

Fiber

Vegetables and other plant-based foods are our bodies’ main source of fiber. Having sufficient fiber in your diet is essential for ensuring your digestive system health. It makes sure everything keeps moving through our system, provides a source of nutrition for the beneficial bacteria in our gut, and stimulates the growth and maintenance of these beneficial bacteria. Different types of fiber feed different types of bacteria, so again variety is the name of the game.

Read more about the importance of fiber here.

So how many veggies do you actually need to eat?

Recommendations can vary from country to country base on their individual nutrition guidelines. Many recommendations now focus on a plate-based approach, which generally means ensuring that at least 50% of your plate is made up of vegetables.

Generally the guidelines suggest around  5-8 servings per day of fruit and vegetables, even up to 10 (with a strong emphasis on vegetables). One serving is roughly ½ cup of cooked veggies or around 80-90 grams. Raw leafy greens would be 2 cups for one serving.

Ready to boost your vegetable consumption?

Join the free 5 day challenge to kick start your new habit!