If you’re struggling with bothersome IBS symptoms, you’re not alone. Estimates show that 10 to 20 percent of the Western population has IBS symptoms at any given time. IBS is also responsible for 10 percent of primary care doctor visits, and 25 to 50 percent of gastroenterology referrals.
IBS is classified as a functional disorder, meaning that it is not caused by a structural abnormality in the gut. While factors such as stress and poor diet can contribute to a flare of IBS symptoms, they are also not causative factors.
Instead, a body of research dating back to the 1950s has observed the onset of IBS symptoms after food-borne illness caused by salmonella, or “food poisoning.” If you’ve ever suffered the misery of fever, diarrhea, and vomiting after ingesting questionable food, chances are salmonella was the culprit.
Studies estimate that 7-31 percent of people who have experienced bacterial or viral gastroenteritis (sometimes known as “stomach flu”) go on to develop IBS.
Furthermore, eight studies published between 1950 and 2005 found a positive relationship between gastrointestinal infection and the onset of IBS symptoms in six of the eight studies analyzed.
Although the exact mechanism isn’t known, there is evidence to suggest that changes in the gut flora could be to blame for IBS. Bacterial infections such as salmonella can damage gut flora and change the delicate balance between “friendly” bacteria and harmful bacteria. This chain of events can pave the way for the development of post-infectious IBS.
Antibiotic treatment for intestinal bacterial infections can also alter the gut flora, leading to antibiotic-induced diarrhea and cramping. These symptoms arise because the antibiotic kills all bacteria in the digestive tract, including the healthy bacteria our bodies need to fight off viral and bacterial infections.
However, not everyone who has experienced gastrointestinal infections will go on to develop post-infectious IBS. Researchers have isolated several common risk factors in the development of post-infectious IBS:
- Severity and duration of the infection
- Whether or not the person had bloody stools
- Whether or not the person is female
Treatment of IBS
Treatment strategies have traditionally involved anti-spasmodic drugs, fiber supplements, and pain medications. However, these strategies don’t address the underlying cause of the IBS symptoms: alterations or damage to the gut flora.
The most effective treatment for IBS involves adopting a healthy diet rich in whole foods and supplementing with both prebiotic and probiotic formulas. By combining healthy foods and supplements, your body will get the nutritional support it needs to replenish damaged gut flora and to restore normal bowel function.
While IBS can be a consequence of the Western lifestyle, culprits such as salmonella can also bring about IBS symptoms by altering or damaging the delicate gut flora.
By adopting a healthy diet and supplementing with high-quality prebiotic and probiotic formulas, you can reduce or eliminate IBS symptoms altogether. Even with a history of salmonella infection, IBS need not be an inevitable consequence, especially with the right interventions and lifestyle adjustments at hand.