Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not actually one disease, but a collection of chronic symptoms that can arise from a range of triggers such as a diet of processed foods, stress, intestinal infection, inflammation, hormonal issues or illness of the muscular or nervous systems.
IBS can be a painful, troublesome and even embarrassing affliction that conventional medicine can do little to help. Slowly introducing “good” bacteria into the gut can help to gradually rebalance your gut and help to minimise symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, cramps, bloating and so on.
Probiotics have been found to lessen the severity of symptoms associated with IBS and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), without creating side effects. However, it is a good idea to introduce small amounts slowly as a sudden, drastic change in your microflora can temporarily worsen IBS symptoms. As well as helping to heal IBS, the probiotics in kefir and other fermented dairy products can help with additional gastrointestinal disorders like ulcers and Crohn’s disease.
Recent clinical studies found that IBS sufferers reported a great improvement in quality of life and comfort after 8 weeks of probiotic supplementation. Scientists have begun to study the effects of probiotics on conditions like IBS, but they still don’t know which of the many gut bacteria species are effective at achieving certain benefits.
One advantage that kefir has over the other popular dairy ferment, yoghurt, is that it contains many more species of bacteria, giving you a greater chance of encountering a species that provides a good match for your particular health issues.
Unlike yoghurt or laboratory produced probiotic supplements, which usually include just two or three strains of bacteria, kefir can contain 10-34 strains of bacteria and yeasts friendly to the gut. The microbial content of a particular kefir drink can vary according to the type of milk used, preparation methods and so on.
Like most probiotic rich foods, kefir is thought to help to heal the gut. Not only can probiotics help to manage the symptoms of bowel disease, but regular consumption can gradually heal the deeper causes such as a microbiome imbalance. One way it does this is through “competitive pathogen exclusion” whereby the “good” bacteria compete with “bad” bacteria for resources – with one group eventually crowding out the other.
Even you haven’t been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, microbiome disruption from stress, antibiotic usage, food allergies and poor lifestyle choices can throw our gut balance out of whack and allow the “bad” bacteria take over, in a condition called dysbiosis – an imbalance of microbes.
Consuming additional foods rich in “good” bacteria can bring your gut flora back into a healthy balance and allow your body to cope better with intestinal disturbances.