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Prebiotic Fibre for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, as any syndrome, is a constellation of symptoms that vary greatly between individuals, making it difficult to diagnose. Often individuals will suffer from chronic reoccurring abdominal discomfort or pain, bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation, changes in frequency and form of stool, bloating and gas, even changes in appetite. These symptoms indicate an underlying inflammatory disorder causing the gut to not functioning normally and individuals may not be properly absorbing nutrients from their food. Unlike IBD, IBS does not have a clear cause and does not result in significant intestinal damage. While the cause is unknown, some risk factors have been identified. Stress, diet, bathroom habits, and food sensitivities are all linked with development or worsening of gastrointestinal symptoms. This has created an estimated $21 billion per year industry related to understanding, preventing, managing, and curing these unpleasant symptoms. Traditionally treatment targeted alleviating the symptoms of diarrhea and constipation, while risk factors were not addressed. Due to the unique and cyclic nature of the onset of IBS symptoms it is important to understand triggers for episodes- from stress to specific foods. That being said the majority of individuals suffering from IBS can benefit from the following approaches:

  • Food trigger avoidance diets
  • Inflammation reduction
  • Increased consumption of water and fibre
  • Supplements that strengthen the good gut bacteria.

Meet XOS:

Xylo-oligosaccharide or XOS (z-a:-s) is a prebiotic fibre that promotes bowel regularity and digestive health. As a prebiotic, XOS is digested by the microflora found in the intestines where it is highly effective at increasing the growth of beneficial probiotics, especially bifidobacteria, and improving the gut ecosystem to preferentially favour the growth of “good” vs “bad” bacteria. XOS addresses three of the four approaches mentioned above: inflammation reduction, it is a source of fibre, and supports healthy microflora.

XOS for Regularity in Individuals with IBS:

One of the most common causes for constipation is the lack of fibre in the diet; fibre promotes the growth of probiotics and is an important component of producing bulk in the stool. XOS has a 93% efficacy rate on relieving constipation. It does this by promoting the growth of bifidobacteria which is known to regulate the GI tract. It also acts as a bulking agent in the stool to promote peristalsis which can gently, but effectively, cause a bowel movement.  Even in severely constipated women, XOS supplementation produced a bowel movement within three days. Unlike chronic laxative use, XOS is safe long term and after the first trimester of pregnancy. Diarrhea, on the other hand, is the condition of loose, watery stools. Diarrhea is also a common symptom of inflammatory GI conditions such as IBS. In studies, XOS was 90% effective at treating moderate diarrhea.

XOS for Nutrient Absorption:

One of the most interesting health benefits of XOS is its effects on improving the absorption of calcium and other nutrients in the GI tract. XOS improves nutrient absorption because it is fermented by gut microflora to form SCFAs; SCFAs are important compounds in nutrient absorption. This keeps the minerals in their most absorbable forms.

XOS for Immunity:

XOS has an immuno-stimulatory effect by increasing the growth of the probiotics which modulate immune function and reduce pro-inflammatory and excessive immune stimulating compounds. This is especially beneficial for those with excess inflammation, as in the case with IBS.

Dr. Navnirat Nibber

About The Author

Dr. NavNirat Nibber, ND is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and a registered Naturopathic Doctor. She is a Co-Owner at Crescent Health Clinic, as well as a Senior Medical Advisor at Advanced Orthomolecular Research.

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