Martin Polanco – What is the best way to improve digestive health?

March 25, 2022
Martin Polanco

Martin Polanco

The dietary and lifestyle choices that support digestive health will vary from person to person says Martin Polanco. Some may experience tremendous relief by adding probiotics to their diet, others might benefit from changes in what they eat. Still others might see quicker results with the help of supplements or medicine. Regardless, I recommend starting your journey with a cleanse (lemon water and/or psyllium husk fiber), add-ons like peppermint oil capsules, continuing on to make dietary changes (more organic foods) and finally if needed making use of over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications – anything that works for you!

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder characterized by abdominal discomfort and altered bowel function. There is no structural, biochemical or anatomical abnormalities in the gut of people who have IBS – with most gastrointestinal tract studies showing closer resemblance with healthy controls than those suffering from functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) such as Functional Dyspepsia, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and Chronic Constipation etc. According to the Rome Foundation II diagnostic criteria for IBS, you can have any combination of abdominal pain or discomfort at least 1 day per week in the last 3 months associated with two or more of the following: relief with defecation, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, loose stool consistency AND/OR mucus in stools AND/OR urgency , which leads me to believe that it is the culmination of multiple factors – intestinal motility, gut inflammation and psycho-social factors as all of these elements influence symptom frequency, stool pattern and abdominal discomfort.

What causes IBS?

The cause is still largely unknown. There are many theories on what triggers IBS: food intolerance (allergy or sensitivity), immune system abnormalities, infections and psychological factors. These hypotheses include low-grade inflammation in the bowel mucosal lining and disruptions in the microbiome.

How does one diagnose IBS?

IBS can be diagnosed with a thorough history and physical exam by your primary care provider or gastroenterologist who includes detailed questions about your symptoms, dietary habits, bowel movements etc to determine if you have altered bowel function where there are no structural, biochemical or anatomical abnormalities in the gut.

How is IBS treated Asks Martin Polanco?

There are no cures for IBS but there are many treatments you can try to manage your symptoms based on what works best for you. If it’s a bacterial infection, antibiotics may help get rid of the pathogen implicated in triggering IBS flares? If your body doesn’t digest food properly, digestive enzymes might be prescribed to replace the enzymes that are absent. Of course, dietary changes play a huge role – whether limiting FODMAPs or avoiding trigger foods based on how they make you feel after consumption will help decrease abdominal discomfort and alter stool pattern. Also using probiotics regularly will increase healthy bacteria in your intestines which act as an intestinal motility aid and decreases inflammation.

There is both a medical and dietary approach to IBS management. If you need a more aggressive treatment, anti-diarrheal medications such as loperamide (Imodium) which slows the movement of intestinal contents or dicyclomine (Bentyl) which relaxes the muscles in the gut wall can help alleviate abdominal discomfort and decrease urgency.

Are there any other supplements that promote digestive health?

A high quality probiotic supplement containing at least 10 billion CFUs per day will not only improve your digestive health by increasing healthy bacteria in your intestines but it will also diminish systemic inflammation throughout the body. Taking 1-2 tbsp of ground psyllium husk fiber daily can help with bowel movements by bulking up stools and making you go at least once per day. Being deficient in fiber will increase your risk of developing diverticular disease, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus so reaching for a box of bran flakes is not the best way to go!

Conclusion by Martin Polanco:

IBS is a very common gastrointestinal disorder with a complex pathophysiology. Although the exact cause of this disease is unknown, there are many ways to manage it symptomatically by incorporating dietary and lifestyle changes. In most cases, finding your trigger foods or food intolerances will make all the difference in reducing abdominal discomfort and altering stool frequency and consistency until the gut recovers from whatever injury was done to initiate this disease state.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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