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Taking the Irritation Out of IBS
CONTRIBUTED BY METAGENICS

It's not uncommon to experience occasional gastrointestinal upset, like gas, bloating, or loose stools. It happens to everyone. However, when it occurs on a regular basis with severity, it is cause for great concern. If a physician runs multiple tests and can't pinpoint the problem, the diagnosis is likely Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Since there is no specific IBS lab test, it is diagnosed by ruling out other conditions such as bacterial infection, lactose intolerance, diverticulitis, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)—an unrelated condition which includes Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's disease. Symptoms used to clinically diagnose IBS may include diarrhea or constipation (or both alternately), gas, bloating, fatigue, and a feeling of incomplete emptying after bowel movements. IBD, which causes extensive damage to the intestines, can easily be confused with IBS, which is considered simply a malfunction of the intestines rather than a disease.

Stress can trigger IBS symptoms, causing excessive intestinal motility (the movement of stool through the intestines), spasms, and cramps. Stress reduction is an important component to managing this condition. Some techniques for accomplishing this include biofeedback, hypnosis, meditation, yoga, and counseling. Regular exercise can also help control stress and promote regularity. Other triggers include hormonal changes, as well as consumption of allergenic foods and caffeine. The latter can be identified by paying attention to what is ingested when an attack occurs.

The wide array of medications prescribed to treat IBS is minimally effective, with each carrying a generally high risk for an equally varied range of side effects. Fortunately, there are some natural options that have proven extremely beneficial.

A multitude of clinical trials demonstrate that probiotics are helpful and effective for reducing IBS episodes, supporting one of the theories that the cause of IBS may be due to an imbalance in the intestinal flora.

Steven Faber, M.D., a gastroenterologist from North Carolina, argues that microecology of the intestines plays a significant causative factor of IBS. He was so convinced that he tested his theory in a clinical trial, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Dr. Faber gave Metagenics Ultra Flora probiotics, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, to 26 volunteers with IBS, some of whom were also following a drug protocol. The patients filled out an "IBS Quality of Life" questionnaire and a "Symptom Frequency Index," (which included bloating, abdominal pain/cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and a sensation of incomplete evacuation) before and after the treatment. After four weeks, patients reported a significant improvement in quality of life as well as a decrease in symptom frequency. Some volunteers experienced improvements in as little as two weeks, and others were even able to discontinue their prescription medications.

As a result of this study, Metagenics developed Ultra Flora IB, an ultra potent probiotic designed to relieve symptoms of IBS. It contains specific strain-identified probiotics that are scientifically tested. The beneficial bacteria include a Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM (North Carolina Dairy Foundation) strain and a Bifidobacterium lactis BI-07 strain. These "identity-certified" strains are acid stable, clinically proven, derived from human origin, and help balance the intestinal flora while minimizing the growth of bacteria and Candida. As with any probiotic, there can be an increase of gas and bloating for the first few days as the intestines adjust, until the flora becomes more balanced.

Also found to reduce IBS is peppermint oil. Many studies have evaluated its effects—to relax intestinal muscles and decrease spasms and motility—and have found it to be quite effective. It also helps reduce abdominal pain, distension, and stool frequency. It works best when enteric-coated, meaning the capsule passes through the gastric acidity and doesn't dissolve until it reaches the more basic intestinal environment of the intestinal tract for optimal activity. Intesol, also from Metagenics, contains peppermint oil, along with chamomile flower extract, lavender, and chlorophyll, in an enteric-coated capsule—a combination that soothes the intestinal tract, decreases spasms, and promotes relaxation.

Lastly, it's important to increase soluble fiber intake to regulate intestines. Research proves that high-fiber intake, through food and supplements, is extremely important. Soluble fiber (dissolves in water), such as apple pectin, psyllium, flax seed, oats, rice, beans, and peas, should be the more prominent fiber source. Insoluble fiber (does not dissolve in water), such as whole wheat and wheat bran, is less effective.

With these natural approaches, it may be possible to do more than address IBS symptoms. In conjunction with some stress management and the avoidance of triggers, the use of these supplements may help make IBS a thing of the past.



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