An introduction to IBS and gut bacteria
Your gut bacteria, also called microbiota, has an impact on many factors affecting your overall wellbeing including immune function, weight management and digestive health.
In this section we discuss exactly what they are, how they can vary between different people and why they may be very important in the treatment of IBS.
What are microbiota?
Gut microbiota are the full range of bacteria living within your digestive system. We are thought to have at least one thousand different strains of bacteria residing in our large bowel, including a full spectrum of types ranging from beneficial to pathogenic.
Your gut bacteria are unique to you, with different strains and combinations living in different people. The variety also changes throughout your life and different diets, lifestyle choices and environments can alter the spectrum of bacteria present at any one time.
Can microbiota become imbalanced?
It has now been recognised that our gut bacteria can be very diverse across different groups of people. Individuals with IBS may be an example of this.
Generally your gut bacteria can be split into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ strains. You must aim to have the beneficial effects of your good bacteria outweigh the bad. Dysbiosis is the name given to an unfavourable imbalance in your gut bacteria. Too little good bacteria and an overpopulation of bad means some of the crucial functions of the beneficial bacteria are lost and some of the nasty symptoms associated with IBS may become apparent.
Your beneficial gut bacteria are responsible for digesting food that our stomach and small intestine can’t. This is a process called fermentation, which produces B vitamins and vitamin K for reabsorption into our bodies. Beneficial microbiota also support the function of your immune system and are even thought to influence weight management.
Prebiotic and probiotics: tackling an imbalance
Dysbiosis is characterised by the bad bacteria in your gut overpopulating the good.
This imbalance in your gut bacteria is thought to be apparent in many cases of functional gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS. So how can you put this right in an attempt to improve IBS and support your general health? You may want to consider two approaches:
- Prebiotics. Support the environment in which the good bacteria flourish by introducing a prebiotic. Molkosan is rich in a substance known as L+ lactic acid, which effectively helps to support this environment, allowing your friendly bacteria to thrive. Many foods are considered to act as prebiotics too including onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke and raw chicory root.
- Probiotics. Introduce probiotics straight into your system. Probiotics are the live, friendly bacteria themselves that you can introduce into your system to top up the numbers. Naturally occurring probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yoghurt and kefir as well as a vast range of high strength probiotic supplements readily available on the market.