The common gut infection that leads to long-term tummy trouble

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a mysterious disease. Doctors still don’t know what causes it. And that’s frustrating…

You’re stuck with chronic stomach cramping, diarrhea, gas, and other uncomfortable symptoms. And your doctor can’t do much to help.

Luckily, for some people with IBS, the true cause could be coming out of the woodwork…

It turns out those chronic stomach symptoms may be tied to something that happened to you months or even years ago — a gut infection you thought was long gone.

The connection between gut infection, inflammation, and IBS

Let’s say you’re on vacation in Mexico and you end up with a case of traveler’s diarrhea (a form of food poisoning). You feel lousy and you’re disappointed that you can’t take advantage of the beautiful resort. But you know that if you rest for a few days and drink plenty of water, you’ll be fine. Here’s what you don’t know…

This common and seemingly minor gut infection could set you up for chronic gut problems down the line. A new study from Rockefeller University shows that a common gut infection like food poisoning could lead to long-term problems like IBS.

In the study, researchers infected mice with a form of Salmonella that causes food poisoning, then took a closer look at the neurons in the intestine. If you’re thinking… “Neurons?? In the intestine???” let me explain…

Your gut is often called your body’s “second brain” because it contains about 100 million neurons. That’s more than your spinal cord or peripheral nervous system.

In this study, researchers found that Salmonella triggered an immune response that triggered inflammation in mice. This inflammation actually killed neurons in their guts. Fewer neurons in the gut can lead to uncomfortable IBS symptoms like constipation, among others.

Related: IBS: 4 ways to find relief

It’s scary to think a common gut infection could lead to long term gut problems. But here’s some good news…

In past work, these researchers also found that Salmonella disrupts the microbial balance in the guts of mice… but when they restored the microbial balance back to normal, some of the damaged neurons recovered.

Get your gut back in balance

Let’s face it… almost all of us have had food poisoning at some point. If yours led to long-term gut issues like IBS, there may be a way to get your gut back in balance — take probiotics.

Probiotics provide a daily dose of healthy bacteria that can help reset your microbial balance after bad bacteria messes it up. Probiotics also have an anti-inflammatory effect that can help counteract some of the inflammation caused by the gut infection (you know, the same inflammation that kills your neurons).

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Here are some of the most research-backed probiotic options for IBS:

  • If you struggle with constipation, B. lactis, S. cerevisiae, and some multi-strain probiotics are proven effective.
  • If diarrhea is your primary symptom, B. coagulans, S. boulardii and certain multi-strain probiotics could help.
  • If gas and bloating are your biggest concern, L. plantarum or a multi-strain probiotic is probably the way to go.
  • Plantarum S. cerevisiae, B. bifidum, B. lactis, L. acidophilus, and L. casei all help with stomach cramping in IBS.

Here’s another tip: If you develop food poisoning in the future, start taking probiotics right away. Don’t wait for uncomfortable, chronic stomach symptoms to surface.

Sources:

  1. Scientists examine how a gut infection may produce chronic symptoms — MedicalXpress
  2. Adrenergic Signaling in Muscularis Macrophages Limits Infection-Induced Neuronal LossCell
  3. Everything You Want to Know About IBS — Healthline
  4. How Probiotics Can Help Fight IBS — Healthline

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.