Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that is directly linked to our guts microbiome. In other words, IBS is a result of a disbalance between the “good” and the “bad” bacteria in our guts.
So, as long as Kefir is renowned precisely for its ability to restore the right balance between the “good” and the “bad” microorganisms in our guts, it definitely can help in relieving IBS symptoms.
However, problems related to IBS are much more complex than that, so let’s jump into more details.
What is IBS?
IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and is a common condition that does not typically cause permanent bowel damage despite its sometimes severe symptoms. However, even though IBS is not considered a life-threatening condition, it certainly impacts the day-to-day routine of many affected people.
Most patients with IBS succeed in controlling symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes, and very few of them have severe problems with IBS.
Unlike other colon diseases, IBS is not associated with underlying intestinal inflammation and is not known to increase the overall risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Young women under 35 and patients with a family history of predisposition to the syndrome are more prone to this disease.
Approximately 10 to 15% of adults and adolescents have symptoms related to IBS, and the disease affects women twice as often as men.
It is not clear why women are amongst the underprivileged. Still, female hormones may play a role in overcoming mental stress in everyday life, and stress levels are considered a major contributing factor for IBS.
Although the real cause of IBS is not positively identified, the main factors triggering IBS are the consumption of chocolate, milk, carbonated beverages, alcohol, and increased levels of stress, weakened immune system, and hormonal imbalance, etc.
The mains symptoms of IBS usually are abdominal pain and cramps, swelling and flatulence, alternating diarrhea and constipation, mucus in the stool, etc. In most cases, IBS is a chronic condition with periods of aggravation alternated by periods of remission.
Many patients with IBS also experience chronic fatigue, painful menstrual periods, increased urinary frequency, headaches, and poor sleep.
As IBS symptoms can also be due to other, more serious gastrointestinal diseases, a medical examination is strongly recommended.
How is IBS usually treated?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is considered a disease that, by default, is difficult to treat. Instead, treatment usually focuses on the alleviation or elimination of its symptoms.
As we said earlier, stress is considered a serious contributing factor for IBS. As modern people, we are exposed to constant stress factors in urban reality so, to minimize the risk of IBS, it is a good idea for all of us to take our daily time to relax.
Most of the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are usually affected by changes in our diet and lifestyle.
While we cannot give universal advice, the first step in trying to control the symptoms of IBS is to build a healthy and balanced diet aiming at:
- Eating small portions of food, but more frequently – every 2-3 hours;
- Drinking enough fluids – 1.5 / 2 liters of water, sugar-free drinks, and decaffeinated drinks;
- Avoiding carbonated beverages;
- Limiting alcohol intake;
- Avoiding foods high in fat such as fried foods, pastries, chips, cakes;
- Avoiding artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol that can cause diarrhea and also affect the symptoms of IBS;
- Increasing the intake of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, nuts, whole grain bread;
- Increasing the intake of probiotic food like kefir, which is known to restore the bacterial balance in the entire gastrointestinal tract;
Research conducted by Monash University in Australia identified a set of substances poorly absorbed by the small intestine and may become a contributing factor to IBS.
These substances are known as “FODMAP,” which is an acronym of
- Disaccharides (including milk sugar – lactose)
- Monosaccharides (fructose)
- Polyols (sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and maltitol)
This study revealed that IBS symptoms are often related and triggered by virtually the same agents that cause lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and Celiac disease. Kefir is proven to have a positive effect.
On the other hand, as a fermented product, kefir may be perceived as a FODMAP agent, triggering IBS symptoms.
However, it ultimately appears that the positive effects of kefir in balancing and harmonizing the microbial population of our guts outperform by far its potentially harmful effect as a FODMAP agent.
The best ways to control the discomfort caused by IBS are changes in the diet to restore the balance in the intestinal microbiome. So, even if your doctor advises you to follow a fodmap-free diet, consumption of fermented milk products, and milk kefir, in particular, may considerably improve your IBS symptoms, restore the normal functions of the bowel, and help in the final cure of IBS.
How can Kefir help in treatment?
If you have IBS symptoms, the first and crucial step is to change the way you eat. Improving gut health usually goes through a series of critical dietetical measures to heal your gut by stimulating bowel movements.
First of all, food should be rich in cellulose by consuming more fruits, vegetables, and cereals (in case no gluten intolerance is detected). Besides stimulating bowel movements, these products rich in fibers will act as prebiotics to stabilize the population of good bacteria in the guts and optimize the gut flora.
The intake of probiotics is another natural way to deal with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As we know, probiotics are non-pathogenic microorganisms that naturally live in the gut and are necessary for their physiological functions. Probiotics can be taken through various foods but are most present in yogurt, kefir, or other fermented milk products made of cow milk or goat milk.
With these two steps – 1. eating more plant fiber and 2. taking probiotic food like kefir – most people with IBS can satisfactorily manage IBS symptoms, preventing any aggravation of their condition.
Furthermore, we need to understand that a more natural and related lifestyle, with a long-term shift in our diet and regular use of probiotics, can relieve IBS symptoms and improve our daily lives without the need for heavy medications.