My Experience with IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS for short, is an intestinal disorder (mainly the large intestine or colon) with symptoms including belly pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Also referred to as spastic colon, IBS can have a devastating impact on many aspects of your life. Below is my experience with IBS and how I tackled this problem.

Do you have IBS? Common IBS symptoms include diarrhea, pain in the belly/stomach area, gas, and constipation. These symptoms can become more pronounced or obvious due to your diet, environment, mental health, and stress.

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Unfortunately, there still really isn’t a “cause” for IBS. The origin of it has been quite elusive to the medical community. Moreover, diagnosis of IBS usually involves a process of elimination. Different people may have different IBS symptoms that can be generally categorized as IBS-D (diarrhea) and IBS-C (constipation) or a mix of the two.

IBS Diagnosis from my Gastroenterologist

I was diagnosed with IBS a year ago. At first, I thought it was food poisoning. However, as the daily diarrhea dragged on over the course of three weeks, I got worried and finally visited a gastroenterologist. Numerous lab tests were ordered for me. The doctor spared me from a colonoscopy, stating that none of my symptoms warranted the invasive procedure. I did not have any dark stools or bleeding or other pains that may be signs of a more serious condition.

The stool samples tested negative for infection with bacteria, parasites, and giardia. My cell counts, electrolytes, and inflammatory markers were normal. The celiac testing results took a while to come out but also ended up being negative. My gastroenterologist explained to me that all these tests do not “eliminate” or “rule-in” specific conditions. Rather, clues are detected, if any, to make certain diagnosis less likely. It was very unlikely I had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, or Ulcerative colitis after all the test results came back. It was also unlikely that I had SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) since I had been watching my diet while I awaited the test results. And if my symptoms responded to diet, than it might not really be SIBO.

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Through a process of elimination based on all the lab results and a careful review of my habits and dietary history during the past few months, it was confirmed that I likely have IBS.

What is interesting about IBS is that it cannot really be “cured.” There is no drug for you to take. No antibiotics or antivirals you can just swallow for week and be all set. In fact, it would probably make your condition worse. All that you can do is mitigate the IBS symptoms to the best of your ability. IBS can last for years or become a lifetime issue that you have to deal with. I have learned a lot since I was diagnosed with IBS a year ago and I will share with you what I have learned and what I did that best helped my symptoms and helped me heal my digestive system.

The symtoms of IBS can be severe and may even be devastating to some peoples’ lives. Some may experience IBS symptoms of diarrhea and/or constipation that are so severe, they get anxious when being outdoors. They are constantly locating a bathroom just so that when the symptoms hit, they know where to run.

Healing Your Digestive System with FODMAPS

To tackle the symptoms and not suffer from diarrhea every time I eat, I decided to strictly follow the FODMAP diet for the next few months and personally start a regime of probiotics.

FODMAP is a diet based on elimination of foods that your stomach cannot properly digest, at least at this moment. FODMAPs are a chain of carbohydrates that your small intestine has trouble digesting. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols. This diet tells you what kind of food you should eat and what kind of food you should eliminate while your digestive system “heals.”

FODMAP is developed by a research team at Monash University in Australia. They chemically test many different kinds of food and have established guidelines to tell you what kind of food is high in the FODMAP category. Those that you should avoid are foods that are high in one or several of the FODMAPs categories.

For example, before I learned about IBS, I did not know that apples and watermelon were bothering my digestive system. Apparently it has been bothering me for quite a while now! And I have always attributed the symptoms to something else that I have eaten, such as a bad salad or a bad egg that I had in the morning. Little did I know that the age old adage of “an apple a day keeps the doctors away” actually made me diarrhea every day. FODMAPs isn’t complicated. However, you will have to experiment with it.

For example, the FODMAPs diet recommends that you avoid apples as it has a sugar that is delayed in your digestive tract and can caused gas and other symptoms that worsens your IBS symptoms. However, some people are fine with apples. Others are not.

The BIG culprits are wheat, lactose products (milk, cheese, cream, etc.), onions, and garlic. Completely cut these items out of your diet for the first few months while you let your gut recover. Your stomach needs some rest from these items that can exacerbate what is already a delicate system in recovery.

The Lifesaving Probiotics for IBS

I did a lot of research into IBS once I was diagnosed. The desire to gain as much insight into this disorder as possible was endless. Partly fueled by desperation and despair. And partly motivated by my curiosity about this “disease” that has turned my life upside down, in what felt like was overnight.

I have read hundreds of websites regarding IBS. I have scanned through numerous posts on Reddit and other platforms.

After a month of taking several different highly-rated probiotics, I can tell you this – my symptoms have declined dramatically. I would further add that I now feel a lot better and would say that my digestive system is 90% back to normal.

Very little is known about IBS. Trust me because it only took me half a day to exhaust every available information on IBS and FODMAPs diets. I have scoured all over Google, all kinds of articles, books, blogs, and forum platforms. It seems like science has not quite caught up with what exactly causes IBS. This is disappointing as up to 15% of the world’s population suffer some form of IBS.

Last year, I suddenly became lactose intolerant. I used to drink organic milk almost every day. Overnight, I could no longer down my favorite beverage. I would immediately have diarrhea and feel like puking. Apparently that was the first signs that my digestive system is changing – and not for the better. Our digestive system is very complex, to say the least. Most of our immune system is also there. The intricate microbial colonies that exist there are always fluctuating and changing. From everything that I have learned so far about IBS, I can say that quite a few people have reported that they started suffering from IBS symptoms whenever they got sick and/or had to go on antibiotics or antivirals.

Apparently these strong medications such as antibiotics or antivirals can effectively wipe out the bacteria or virus that your system is struggling with (a cold, a flu, an infection, for example). However, it can also wipe out a good chunk of all the good bacteria in your digestive system. And do not underestimate these good bacteria. They help us digest. They help us fight off germs and infections. They do a lot for us but we tend to not really think about them. With these good bacteria wiped out or somehow disturbed, the balance in your system is off. And what occurs is intolerance to certain foods. Or full-on IBS where more than half of the foods that you used to enjoy can be no longer tolerated.

The Probiotics I Take for IBS

Probiotics is one of the best weapons against IBS and its symptoms. A big part of the reason you have IBS symptoms may because your gut flora (the complex community of microorganisms that live in yur digestive tracts) is out of balance.

You see, we all have billions and billions of good and bacteria in our gut. The good bacteria in our system are vital to a good health. They are responsible for everything from proper digestion to immune system. Each day, our gut flora fluctuates depending on what you eat, how stressed you are, and other factors. There is also a set of bad bacteria that is lingering around your digestive system. They may not be necessarily bad, per se. However, if the balance of good and bad bacteria is altered, it may cause many of the digestive issues that you struggle with – including IBS symptoms.

The good bacteria in your gut flora can also be devastated by a course of antibiotics. In fact, some people actually started experiencing IBS symptoms after they’ve gone through a flu or infection. The antibiotics or antivirals eliminate a lot of the bad stuff in our system but inevitably it also eliminates a lot of the good bacteria that your body relies on. The gut flora balance is then disturbed and you then get these indigestion symptoms and diarrhea or constipation.

Therefore, to rebalance my gut flora, I decided to shock my digestive system with a regular intake of probiotic supplements. There are a lot of probiotic supplement products out there. It is mind-boggling. I have tried quite a few of them. What is important is to ensure that you are taking good products that will actually help your system.

Align probiotics were the first probiotics I purchased after being diagnosed with IBS.

Align probiotic supplement contain a patented probiotic (Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis 35624) that is not found in other probiotic brands. It is one of the top probiotics on the market and the number one gastroenterologist recommended probiotic product.

This probiotic supplement claims to help support your digestive system for 24/7 through healthy bacteria. It helps your body maintain a natural digestive balance.

I take one Align probiotic capsule every morning. And I would highly recommend that you do the same. Align is a part of the Procter & Gamble brands. This probiotic has been well-researched and is highly recommended by many whom I have talked to. Align also offers a risk-free, money-back guarantee, just in case you don’t like the product.

So far, we have the following probiotic in my morning routine:

  • Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis 35624

Culturelle probiotics is another top probiotic product that I recommend to add to your daily probiotic intake.

Each Culturelle probiotic capsule contains up to 10 billion active cultures and features the Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG ATC53103 beneficial bacteria. Culturelle probiotic is naturally sourced and is a top rated products with a lot of positive feedback about improving numerous digestive problems, including IBS.

The capsules are individually sealed so very convenient for on-the-go or traveling.

I take one Culturelle capsule every morning.

So far, we have the following probiotic in my morning routine:

  • Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis 35624 (Align)
  • Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG ATC53103 (Culturelle)

Now we get to the good stuff. VSL #3 probiotics is the king of probiotics both in quality, impact, and efficacy.

Each VSL #3 probiotic medical food capsule contains up to 112.5 billion bacteria. It is especially designed and made for the dietary management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Ulcerative Colitis.

Each bottle of VSL #3 contains 60 capsules and you can take between 1 to 16 capsules daily. I would suggest that you take about 2 or 3 a day when you first start off. Taking too much probiotics at once can cause your stomach to be a bit upset. Although this is temporary. You can’t really “overdose” on probiotics as it is not a drug or medicine. However, as with everything, moderation is best while your system adapts to the new bacteria balance that you are introducing.

Each VSL #3 probiotic capsule includes the following beneficial bacteria:

  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bifidobacterium longum (B. lactis)
  • Bifidobacterium infantis (B. lactis)
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus (L. helveticus)

VSL #3 probiotics need to be refrigerated. You can likely find it in your local pharmacy. Just go up to the pharmacy counter and ask for “VSL 3.” You won’t need a prescription for this version that I have outlined above. There is a stronger, more concentrated VSL #3 product that requires a prescription. This capsule form does not. Most Costco pharmacies also sell this product. You can also easily order this online through Amazon and have it conveniently shipped to you in a refrigerated box.

So far, we have the following probiotic in my morning routine:

  • Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis 35624 (Align)
  • Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG ATC53103 (Culturelle)
  • Bifidobacterium breve (VSL 3)
  • Bifidobacterium longum (B. lactis) (VSL 3)
  • Bifidobacterium infantis (B. lactis) (VSL 3)
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus (VSL 3)
  • Lactobacillus plantarum (VSL 3)
  • Lactobacillus paracasei (VSL 3)
  • Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus (L. helveticus) (VSL 3)

VSL #3 probiotics 2 pack:

You can also order a two-pack since a bottle should last you just less than a month. VSL #3 probiotics dramatically improved my IBS symtoms. I started VSL #3 about two weeks after I began Align and Culturelle probiotics together. VSL3 is a medical food and contains a much higher amount of probiotics per capsule. 

After taking probiotics for over a year and watching my diet and avoid the very bad foods that can cause issues, my IBS symptoms have not been bothering me anymore. I can say that I am now about 90% normal as long as I don’t consume a big bowl of garlic and onion salad or something like that.

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