In a survey conducted by Cipla (Cipla Digestive Health Trends Index), 26% of participants reported that they suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The use of a good quality, daily probiotic can decrease the symptoms of IBS as the microorganisms found in probiotics support the maintenance of a healthy gut flora balance.

Professor Leon Dicks, head of the Department of Microbiology at Stellenbosch University and developer of probiotic entiro™ says IBS is characterised by a variety of symptoms including abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

“Unfortunately, most cases of IBS go undiagnosed as sufferers would rather not consult their physicians about the symptoms. New research into the causes of IBS suggest changes to the brain-gut messaging; stretching and contractions of the muscles in the gut; and, a general increase in pain experienced. But although relatively little is known about the cause of IBS, we do know how to treat it.”

Professor Dicks explains that women are more likely than men to suffer from IBS and that the syndrome rarely occurs in people past 50 years of age. “Those who have family members suffering from IBS should be cautious, as this may increase their risk of developing the syndrome.”

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IBS, in most cases, is a chronic condition and is rarely completely cured, although symptoms can become less severe if the correct treatment is undertaken, he explains.

“The symptoms are not only physical, but can also cause stress as sufferers are in frequent pain or discomfort. The syndrome can also cause anxiety as bowel movements become unpredictable and difficult to control.”

Professor Dicks adds that research has established a link between a dysfunction of the bacteria in the gut, known as gut flora, and the onset of IBS. “Disruption to the fine balance between gut flora and the body may be caused by a number of factors, including the use of antibiotics or a bout of gastroenteritis.”

He explains that certain foods are known catalysts for IBS and sufferers would be well warned to limit the consumption of these foods. “Many sufferers of IBS are lactose intolerant and are unable to properly digest milk and dairy products. Dairy products also contain high amounts of fat which can exacerbate diarrhoea. Grains, fried foods and caffeinated drinks are all high risk foods for sufferers and have been known to trigger symptoms of IBS.”

Professor Dicks states that probiotics or ‘good’ bacteria, consisting of live microorganisms, are beneficial in the management of IBS. “Although there are many probiotics on the market, it is important to ensure that you take a good quality probiotic which treats and protects both the small and large intestine.”

“Probiotics have no real negative side effects and are therefore a safe course of action in the management of IBS,” he concludes.