The change in your bowel pattern or abdominal pain has more to do with your diet and balance of beneficial and harmful gut bacteria than with your mood, studies show.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an umbrella term that refers to diarrhoea, discomfort, cramps, constipation, abdominal swelling (bloating) and pain, was believed to be a primarily psychological condition for a long time.
"Contrary to this view, recent findings suggest that IBS is linked to clearly detectable gut microbiota (microbe population living in our intestine) alterations. Additionally, bloating can be related to specific kinds of diet, thus opening up promising paths towards an efficient disease management," said professor Giovanni Barbara of University of Bologna in Italy.
According to him, there is a lot of evidence showing that IBS is associated with an imbalanced composition of the gut microbiota.
This means that the system of checks and balances between beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria, which characterises a healthy gut microbiota, is disturbed in IBS patients.
"IBS symptoms develop in up to 10 percent of previously healthy subjects after a single episode of gastroenteritis caused by an infection through bacterial pathogens like Salmonella, Shighella or Campylobacter, which can severely disrupt the microbiota balance," said Barbara, who is also the president of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility.
Not only infections, but also the antibiotics that are used as a remedy, may increase the risk for IBS, as they, too, can alter the gut microbiota in a negative way, the studies showed.
Researchers have now shown that food rich in carbohydrates, particularly fiber, might lead to repeated bloating and flatulence in some individuals.
The potentially negative impact of this kind of nutrition applies in particular to individuals who already suffer from IBS.
"On the other hand, we now know for sure that diets containing low fiber content improve these symptoms significantly," Barbara said.
The study results were presented at the Gut Microbiota for Health World Summit in Miami in Florida, US.