IBS Awareness Month is a great time to talk more about the very common disorder that affects many people’s lives. There’s a stigma around IBS and because we don’t talk about it as much as we should, it is often misunderstood.
Having digestive disorders is common among adults in the UK, in fact, according to a report from Core, 10 per cent or more of a GP’s working life can be spent in consultation with patients with digestive disorders. (link to the magazine). While an estimated 10-20% of people in the UK experience IBS, many live with this condition without a formal diagnosis. It has been also found that women are most commonly affected by this disorder.
We wanted to have a deep dive on the issue and look at the main factors such as gut health and microbiomes.
The term “gut biome” or also called “microbiome” refers to the whole of microorganisms that live in our digestive systems. It includes bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi, and viruses. It is believed that we have trillions of these organisms and they all have a different relationship with our body.
And everyone’s gut biome is unique – just like fingerprints. We start developing our biome the moment when we were born.
There are many signs of a poor gut health which can include feeling down, having skin problems and feeling constantly bloated. Microbiomes are what keep our gut health in order, so having a healthy digestive system comes down to having well-functioning microbiomes.
The reasons for poor gut health could be a combination of factors. Unfortunately many aspects of modern life can negatively impact the microbiome, and as such we are seeing a massive reductions in bacterial diversity in the human gut.
Stress being one of the main triggers of the issue, changes in daily habits and diets have major effects on our gut health. With the global pandemic many people’s lives and their daily habits have changed. For example, if you have started to have your lunch at your desk while working from home, it might be contributing to your poor gut health.
Another very important factor is having low quality food such as processed foods as they usually have additives or artificial ingredients that have negative affect on your overall health when they are consumed regularly. Diets where high in processed foods, sugar, refined carbs, unhealthy fats and low in fibre foods are consumed, microbiomes are negatively affected. Other negative triggers of poor gut health are stress, smoking and alcohol consumption.
Along with what goes into our bodies, external factors such as environmental pollutants, food additives, heavy metals and chlorinated tap water may also negatively impact on the microbiome.
Beneficial bacteria is what keeps our guts healthy and when non-beneficial bacteria get into our gut, the biome becomes unhealthy which lead to digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIB0), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are likely to develop.
Speaking to Health Food Business Magazine, Jamie Christie, Managing Director of Nutrasolve said, “Research is advancing quickly with regards to gut health, gut bacteria, our microbiome and poor gut health. Low numbers and types of bacteria in our guts are starting to be linked to a variety of conditions such as IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, anxiety and depression, allergies, eczema, high cholesterol and heart disease. All can be linked to the health of our gut and the types and number of bacteria in our digestive systems.”
The key to good health really begins in the gut and the balance of microorganisms within the gut microbiome is crucial to maintain our overall health. When the biome is unbalanced and there’s a lack of beneficial bacteria, digestive symptoms such as those experienced in IBS may start to occur.
If you’re suffering from IBS, it’s not something you should be dealing with alone and there are organisations such as The IBS Network whose work is to help individuals who suffer from IBS and related symptoms.
If you have any concerns or think you may have IBS symptoms speak up, talk to your doctor and seek medical advice. Don’t feel embarrassed to talk about it!