Published July 2nd, 2020
The term “irritable bowel” is said to have been coined sometime in the 1950s. They used the term to categorize people who developed diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.
Since then, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has been the source of discomfort for millions of people. In America, IBS affects anywhere between 15 to 25 million people. Worldwide, about 10-15% of people have IBS. Additionally, it afflicts women twice as frequently as men.
IBS is particularly frustrating because there isn’t really a cure for it. It’s not something you can just get rid of, but rather it sticks with you. This disorder can force you to make many difficult adjustments in your daily life.
But it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.
In this article, I’ll talk in detail about sourdough bread, its nutritional facts, and what it can do for you. But before we get that bread (literally), let’s talk about IBS.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that generally affects your large intestine. It presents itself as abdominal discomfort and bowel trouble. The common symptoms of IBS are the following:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Constipation (sometimes alternating with diarrhea)
- Excess gas
Symptoms of bloating and excess gas seem to subside after a bowel movement. It is worth noting that only a few people show severe signs of IBS; the rest are reasonably manageable.
There isn’t one definitive cause for IBS.
The symptoms can be attributed to how the brain, the gut, and the nervous system interact with one another. Poorly coordinated signals between them cause the organs to overreact to certain stimuli.
Others attribute IBS to gastroenteritis. Up to 50% of visits to gastroenterologists are because of IBS symptoms.
Another possible cause is a change in bacteria, especially in the gut (microbiota). Microbiota are the bacteria that reside in our bodies, the majority of which inhabit the intestines. It is said that the microbiota in people with healthy guts are quite different from those with IBS.
A couple of things can also trigger the symptoms of IBS. These include food, stress, and hormones.
- Certain foods that contain dairy, caffeine, and indigestible sugars can cause symptoms of IBS to arise. The effects of food can differ from person to person, so you should keep notes for yourself.
- Stress and anxiety are linked to IBS symptoms, as mental health can easily affect physical health.
- Hormones are also a possible trigger for these symptoms. Hormones in women are more likely to fluctuate due to menstruation and pregnancy, making them more prone to IBS.
You should know that only medical professionals can diagnose you with IBS.
How do you calm IBS?
Living with IBS can get tough, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Since it’s an incurable disorder, the best thing you can do is to manage it. Managing it means making some lifestyle and dietary changes that can alleviate or prevent symptoms.
The most basic lifestyle change you can make is increasing your physical activity. Exercise can provide relief for IBS symptoms since regular physical activity is linked with improved bowel movement. It also increases serotonin levels in your brain, which reduces stress and makes you feel better overall.
A research study found that you should participate in at least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three to five times a week. Doing this will significantly improve IBS symptoms like abdominal pain and bowel problems.
Dietary changes also significantly impact your IBS symptoms. Many different foods and drinks can aggravate your IBS, such as:
- high-fat foods
- artificial sweeteners
- beans and other gas-causing foods
Fiber is highly recommended for those with IBS. Fiber is extremely beneficial when it comes to bowel health. Its significant benefits include relieving constipation and preventing hemorrhoids.
The next recommendation is to keep a diet with low-FODMAP levels. What is FODMAP, you ask? FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols.” They are types of carbohydrates that you can find in several foods, such as beans and wheat. What makes them bad for you is that these particular carbs are highly resistant to digestion.
Several studies support its efficacy in alleviating abdominal symptoms in adults. However, taking a low-FODMAP diet doesn’t come without risks, so you should talk to a licensed dietician for the best results.
So, why sourdough?
How healthy is sourdough?
Before we get to why sourdough is good for IBS, we have to look at how it’s made; this is an integral part of why sourdough is beneficial for those with IBS.
Sourdough bread is made from a natural yeast starter. This natural yeast starter is nothing more than some flour and water. The secret to making sourdough is to let this mixture sit out and breathe, feeding it often. Feeding it means adding a little flour and water, which should allow your starter to grow.
This long fermentation process allows it to breakdown the gluten proteins in the dough. This reduces the FODMAP levels by up to 90%, whereas other commercial breads have much higher levels. When made with wheat or spelt flour, sourdough can be a low FODMAP bread.
Fermentation also increases the lactic acid present in the bread, which lowers the bread’s pH. The lower pH level degrades phytates, which are antinutrients that reduce mineral absorption. Fermentation pre-digests the carbohydrates, which make this bread easily digestible for you!
It is also said to be rich in probiotics. Researchers conducted a study that showed the in vitro effects of sourdough bread. It was shown to increase levels of bifidobacteria, which is effective against IBS.
Here’s a useful guide in making sourdough bread.
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About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.