In Western countries, irritable bowel syndrome affects 4 to 15% of populations , depending on how the disorders are identified.
15% of the population is affected if we take into account intestinal discomfort and bloating and only 4% according to the new medical standard (Rome4) which only takes into account pain and transit disorders.
Although this syndrome affects a large number of people, its precise origin remains difficult to determine.
In this article, we will return to the definition, origins and current means to eliminate or minimize the effects of IBS.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is also known as “ functional colopathy ” in France or “ irritable bowel ”.
These are chronic disorders of the digestive system which manifest themselves in the intestine and particularly in the colon by a series of variable and non-specific discomforts, of non-inflammatory but recurring origin.
Symptoms may be:
- Abdominal pain,
- Irregular stools (diarrhea or constipation).
This syndrome is common since it affects 4 to 15% of the population in Western countries.
However, we observe that there is a gradient of problems of more or less acute intensity from one individual to another but in all cases, we notice a marked prevalence among women under 45 years of age.
The origin and main cause of IBS: incomplete digestion
IBS is not linked to a specific pathological cause , however certain factors are associated with its appearance:
- Repeated use of antibiotics
- Irregular eating, snacking
- Following an intestinal infection.
To simplify: the triggering of IBS is mainly linked to the arrival of an excess of fermentable nutrients in the Colon.
This excess results in microbial overactivity in the colon which is the cause of the discomfort felt.
There are 3 main causes which often combine to explain this problem (and remedy it):
- Incomplete digestion of food: which can be corrected by adopting good dietary practices (structured meals, sufficient chewing, no snacking/nibbling) to allow the entire digestive chain, including the stomach, to perform their function correctly.
- Unbalanced intestinal flora.
- An excess of fermentable nutrients (FODMAPs, see explanation below) which arrive in too large quantities in the colon and trigger uncomfortable bacterial fermentations.
It should be noted that irritating foods ( FODMAPs ) are more likely to be classified among the elements which maintain irritable bowel syndrome rather than among those which initially trigger it. This distinction is important to understand the different steps and actions that will help make IBS disappear or reduce.
How to reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
The first solution to calm these discomforts quickly is always to greatly reduce the quantity of FODMAPs ingested, while acting on the first two factors (digestion and flora) to gradually return to a complete diet without discomfort!
In all cases :
- a “zero Fodmap” diet is not possible, nor possible in the medium term. Fodmaps are essential for the good balance of the intestinal flora of the Colon and for our health (for the synthesis of vitamin K, the absorption of Calcium, etc.).
- The low Fodmap diet phase is simply the first step in a gradual return to normal.
FODMAP is the English acronym for Mono, Di, Oligosaccharides and Fermentable Polyols: a category of carbohydrates poorly digested in the small intestine but essential to the bacterial flora of the colon.
The fructose in fruits and vegetables and the lactose in products are FODMAPs, which are found almost everywhere in our diet. See some examples below:
|Recommended foods (low in FODMAP )||Foods not recommended (Rich in FODMAP)|
|Vegetal oils||Fruit juice, ketchup|
|Animal proteins (meat, eggs, fish)||Nuts|
|Rice, potatoes, quinoa||Wheat, lentils, beans|
|Green beans, spinach, eggplant||Fennel, peas,|
|Pineapple, grapes, melon||Apple, pear, apricot, cherries|
|Cheeses||Milk, fresh cream|
|Traditional breads||Crackers, snacks|
You don't quite understand the subtleties between "FODMAP" and "NON FODMAP"?
Rest assured, this is normal because in practice all carbohydrate foods contain them, more or less.
This is why support from a Dietitian-Nutritionist is highly recommended to define and follow the treatment modalities and design coherent meals.
Remember that this phase is transitory and must be part of a broader program to rebalance your entire digestive process.
Adapt your diet?
Here are some tips to easily adapt your diet :
- Short term :
- Calm irritation by adopting a low FODMAP diet (2 to 4 weeks)
- Make lasting changes to your eating habits to improve the entire digestive process
- Ensure good hydration with moderate and regular intakes outside of meals;
- Limit water consumption during meals because it dilutes stomach acid and therefore reduces the efficiency of stomach digestion;
- Eat structured meals, sitting down, taking the time to chew.
- Avoid foods that disrupt the intestinal flora (primarily ultra-processed foods and drinks).
- Avoid snacking at any time of the day: it does not allow the stomach to function properly and as a result, brings a lot of poorly pre-digested nutrients into the small intestine, leading to a number of intestinal problems, including IBS.
- After 2 - 4 weeks
- Gradually reintroduce all FODMAP foods by minimizing the proportion of ultra-processed foods rich in preservatives;
- Rebalance the intestinal flora with lactic ferment cures.
- Continue to observe good dietary practices.
Irritable Bowel or SIBO?
SIBO (or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, in English) is a syndrome frequently compared to irritable bowel syndrome although with a significantly different expression.
It actually refers to an overgrowth in the small intestine of bacteria that are normally mainly found in the colon, leading to excessive fermentation, inflammation and malabsorption.
Apart from pathological causes (to be checked with your doctor in the event of sudden onset), adopting the advice above is also a necessary first step to rebalance the entire digestive process and allow correction without resorting to antibiotics frequently prescribed when the symptoms are acute.
Probiotics to fight irritable bowel?
Food supplements can reduce digestive disorders.
The Vegaflore formula from our Argalys Essentials range combines vegan lactic flora well suited to rebalancing the microbiota.
Vegaflore contains 0.1 gram of Fructo Oligo Saccharides (FODMAP) per capsule. This quantity is very low compared to food levels.
It is therefore possible to use Vegaflore from the initial rebalancing phase with one capsule per day, then gradually increase to one capsule/meal until transit and intestinal balance have returned to normal.
Some links to find out more:
Our Ideal Essentials for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: