IBS and Probiotics
Irritable bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition that can have a devastating impact on a persons life, yet nobody fully understands the basis of this condition or how best to treat it. I am joined now by Dr. Eileen Murphy a scientist who is working on it.
Eileen thank you very much for coming into us this morning. First off, Irritable bowel syndrome,just describe to me what does it do to person. The main symptom is abdominal pain but it is also associated with constipation, diarrhea, passage of gas and bloating. It can have a significant effect on a persons quality of life, particularly the bloating and the passage of gas there is a social impact. It effects more women then men. Does anyone know why? No there is no known cause for IBS which is frustrating, for those that have the condition itis about managing the condition.
When you do have symptoms like that I presume the first thing you do is go to your GP. What does the GP do? Say" I don't know what this is off you go?" Well it is a diagnosis of exclusion for IBS so you may be referred to a gastroenterologist you may get a scope but in general the tests come back as normal so there is no obvious organic cause. So when they find nothing then you get the diagnosis of IBS? Yes and its frustrating for both patient and doctor because of the limited therapeutic options there for IBS. But it is a very debilitating condition. We've had reports from sufferers that wake up in the morning, their stomach is flat and by the evening their stomach is bloated and they don't fit into their cloths.They're buying floaty tops to cover their stomach because they are embarrassed People are missing out on work opportunities, social opportunities, people will avoid things? Absolutely yes. Even going out to dinner, going to a restaurant it's all about where the next loo is. Long journeys are an issue going on a plane or a bus journey these are an issue so it really does have an impact on daily routine.
The other thing you hear a lot about around irritable bowel syndrome or any kind of digestive issues are probiotics. There are many many firms now selling probiotics. Is there the science in place to say that probiotics do anything for these conditions. For some not all and I think that is an important point. Probiotics are not all the same, they are not equal. They are like people, like individuals you know they are unique.
Certain probiotics work and otheres don't. It's really important if you have IBS to ask your pharmacist for a recommendation and look for a probiotic that has been clinically tested in the condition like for IBS Not to name any brands but you know the ads you see, take this little drink or this yogurt this will support your internal micro-flora etc. Those companies, is there the research there? For the bigger ones there is yes. Although for IBS I think, there is such a range of different symptoms it is important to look for one that can manage the wholecondition rather then just one particular symptom like bloating lets say.
What is the basic thinking behind probiotics, how are they meant to improve things for IBS sufferers? Well in IBS it is now well known that there is an imbalance in the gut microbiota and also that the immune system is altered so probiotics can work through the gut microbiota and can stimulate the immune system or calmdown the immune system. What is a probiotic? They are live bacteria and a probiotic by definition has to have a proven health effect associated with a strain. So live bacteria that is what is contained in the drinks etc? Yes. And then the live bacteria go into your gut and what do they do? Well in the work that we do it's all about engagement with the immune system, about calming down the immune system. IBS sufferers have elevated inflammatory markers and we've shown that we can manage those indications. So the gut is inflamed and then you introduce a new bacterium and it relaxes why? It is about the specific bacteria. Our science is showing us that a specific bacteria, a specific probiotic can manage the immune response, not all probiotics will do that Ok, it sounds like a very new area of science there is a long way to go in it but if you are going to take a probiotic make sure the research is there before you start paying big money for them. Absolutely.
Now its time for the business news.
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