Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is defined as a ‘functional condition of the gastrointestinal system where patients experience abdominal pain and altered bowel habits with either predominantly diarrhoea (IBS-D), constipation (IBS-C) or both (IBS-M). Currently there is no definitive biomarker, so it is diagnosed clinically by a GP (based on medical signs and patient reported symptoms, rather than a diagnostic test). In 2015 a clinical review reported IBS affects 7-21% of the general population depending on the diagnostic criteria used. It is a chronic condition that can substantially reduce the quality of life with females being impacted the most.
Treatment aims to alleviate the obvious symptoms of IBS although the root cause is still unknown. Abnormal gastrointestinal movement, low grade inflammation and psychological disturbance are all described in sufferers of IBS. Fermentation of sugars by microorganisms in the colon can produce a number of gases (H2 and CH4) and short-chain-fatty acids (SCFA’s) such as acetate, proprionate and butyrate that may have important implications in bowel movements and gut permeability. The current hypothesis is that abnormal microbial balance will activate mucosal immune responses and can create symptomatic responses.
Recent research investigated 113 IBS sufferers and 66 healthy subjects and performed a metagenomic analysis of the microbe of 273 stool samples. Three subtypes were used to determine types of IBS (IBS-D, IBS-C and IBS-M).
The findings reported that subjects with diarrhoea suffer a greater loss of bacterial diversity and that loss is associated with butyrate producing bacteria (bifidobacterium). These bacteria which are low in IBS-D are known to contribute to the GI mucosal barrier protection. Without this protection it is easier for the microbes from the GI tract to interact with the circulatory system and pro-inflammatory molecules (microorganisms, toxins and allergens) can cause food allergies, microbial infections, Celiac disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
If you are a IBS sufferer then these findings show the importance of establishing the correct balance of bacteria in the GI tract. Without this correct balance and a decrease in important barrier protecting bacteria (biftobacterium), then gut microbes can access the bloodstream and immune cells can be affected to cause inflammation.
At GC biosciences we have been monitoring gastrointestinal stool testing with the help of our expert medical team for over 5 years. This has enabled a real insight into a persons health. For example, the majority of people tested have presented with higher quartile lactobacillus numbers, which shows there is may be no need for the common forms of probiotics and this may even make the problem worse due to too many bacteria.
This means that the health of a persons digestive system will not be solely based on the types of yogurt they are consuming or whether they have probiotics each day. The gut microbiota makes changes based on a persons history, lifestyle and diet and eating patterns and thus once the types and levels of bacteria are established an informed plan can be structured to balance the bacteria more efficiently.