Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects 15-20% of Americans and is the most common GI condition, yet we still don’t know what causes it. The medical community often categorizes IBS symptoms as stress-related, but a recent study shows that although stress may be a contributing factor, gut bacteria play an important, and maybe even causative role.
A study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology in September 2015 compared IBS sufferers with a healthy control group and found that all sub-types of IBS (diarrhea-predominant, constipation-predominant, and alternators) had significantly lower colonic pH levels, which could be explained by higher rates of bacterial fermentation. Colonic pH levels also correlated with symptom severity.
What do these results tell us about the relationship between gut bacteria and IBS? They suggest that all IBS patients, no matter the sub-type, possess a different bacterial make-up than healthy individuals, and this altered bacterial profile plays an important role in the severity of IBS symptoms. It also tells us that restoring the gut microbiome by encouraging the growth of “good” gut bacteria, thereby decreasing bacterial fermentation and increasing colonic pH levels can be an important step in treating IBS – very encouraging news for the millions of people whose lives are adversely affected by GI symptoms every day. For more information on IBS – what it is, diagnosis, and treatment, please visit the Gutbliss informational page on IBS.
By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan