Tryptophan and IBS: The Connection

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    One day it may be possible to find a more permanent relief for IBS patients.  As they do further research and find a way to give people the right balance of bacteria in their gut, IBS can be decreased.  Until then, diet and exercise remain the most important factors in controlling symptoms.

    Tryptophan and IBS: The Connection

    We need protein in our diet to keep us strong and healthy. New research presents the idea that a diet rich in protein is good for IBS as we will see in the article, "Protein-rich diet may help soothe inflamed gut," by the Washington University School of Medicine. Protein is within all living organisms and plays an important role in cells such as metabolism and transporting molecules.

    For patients with IBS - bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain are a part of life. With the exact cause not being known, they are left with recommendations to treat the symptoms. To make sure that foods are the irritant, the patient should make a food diary for a week. This will show a correlation between which foods cause what symptom, or any symptoms at all.

    Along with de-stressing as much as you can, experts recommend finding an eating routine that allows a relaxing atmosphere. Take the time to chew properly, and drink plenty of water. Exercise is important for these patients as well. Actually, these recommendations are good for everyone.

    Also, it is suggested that limiting caffeine, alcohol, and fizzy drinks such as soda is beneficial. Some starches can irritate IBS patients and can lead to bloating and diarrhea. Fatty foods, soluble and insoluble fiber, fructose can all lead to IBS symptoms. That is why a food diary is important.

    Most of us have heard of the FODMAP diet in helping with IBS symptoms. There is a lot of information out there available to patients.
    F - Fermented - Oligo
    D - Di
    M - Mono-saccharides
    A - And
    P - Polyols All of these represent short chained carbohydrates that aren't absorbed well in the colon. Some examples are wheat, onion, garlic, cabbage, legumes, apples, apricots, avacados, plums, and watermelon. This is a small example of a much larger list.
    Now there is new research that can give hope to patients with IBS . Our body in it's amazingness, has a protective mechanism in which immune cells defend the stomach. When the inflammation balance tilts in the wrong direction, that is when patients end up with IBS. The study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine shows that there is a bacteria present in some mice that are, "a kind of tolerance-promoting immune cells." But that isn't all, the specific bacteria - Lactobacillus reuteri, needs tryptophan (a building block of protein) to trigger it's appearance. This bacteria is a normal part of the gut, and the "more tryptophan the mice had in their diet, the more of these immune cells they had."
    The researchers found that while the mice were genetically the same, that when raised in alternative environments made a difference whether the mice had the cells or not. That is how the researchers found that when L. reuteri was introduced to mice who had none, their immune cells rose in number.

    Most of us just ate a bunch of tryptophan, but it can also be found in eggs, seeds, poultry, yogurt, cheese, chocolate, and nuts. Vegetarians need not worry about not being able to obtain tryptophan in their diets.

    Although most of us have L. reuteri in our system, some do not. It is not known for sure if the bacteria has the same effect in humans as in mice. There may be a defective gene in regards to tryptophan in IBS patients. Since the bacteria controls inflammation, it can make a difference in the GI health.

    Because there is no proven relation of IBS to food allergies, it not treated as such. The popular gluten free diet has led many people to remove gluten from their diets. However, in the article, "Diet in Irritable Bowel Syndrome," by El-Shaly, Magdy, they say that after 30 years of research including small bowel biopsies and a gluten challenge, patients have not had any relief in their symptoms.

    One day it may be possible to find a more permanent relief for IBS patients. As they do further research and find a way to give people the right balance of bacteria in their gut, IBS symptoms can be decreased. Until then, diet and exercise remain the most important factors in controlling symptoms.

    Share what has worked with you or your patients regarding control of IBS symptoms.

    References

    El-Salhy, Magdy and Gunderson, Doris. 2015, April 14. "Diet In Irritable Bowel Syndrome." BioMedCentral. 4 August, 2017. Web.

    Sambrook, Jan Dr. 2017, Jan. 11. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Sheet." Patient.info.health. 4 August, 2017. Web.

    Washington University School of Medicine. 2017, August 3. "Protein-Rich Diet May Help Soothe Inflamed Gut: Mice Fed Tryptophan Develop Immune Cells That Foster A Tolerant Gut." ScienceDaily. 4 August, 2017. Web.
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    About Brenda F. Johnson, BSN, RN

    Brenda F. Johnson has '23+' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gastrointestinal Nursing'. From 'Ooltewah, Tn'; Joined Oct '14; Posts: 197; Likes: 650.

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    3 Comments

  3. by   wondern
    Interesting article Brenda. Years ago I suffered from IBS attacks but thank God they disappeared. My IBS may have been due to taking Accutane at the time as well. It was terrible pain. I was so relieved when a friend told me about Levinex, or Levsin/ Levbid (Hyoscyamine sulfate). This stuff really helped calm the spasms and stabbing feelings. After suffering sporadically for a couple years it just went away on its own. There were times though I thought I may be found dead on or near the toilet in a cold sweat! It was horrid!

    I would've had a turkey sandwich for lunch everyday if I knew about tryptophan then!
  4. by   Brenda F. Johnson
    Quote from wondern
    Interesting article Brenda. Years ago I suffered from IBS attacks but thank God they disappeared. My IBS may have been due to taking Accutane at the time as well. It was terrible pain. I was so relieved when a friend told me about Levinex, or Levsin/ Levbid (Hyoscyamine sulfate). This stuff really helped calm the spasms and stabbing feelings. After suffering sporadically for a couple years it just went away on its own. There were times though I thought I may be found dead on or near the toilet in a cold sweat! It was horrid!

    I would've had a turkey sandwich for lunch everyday if I knew about tryptophan then!
    I'm so glad you don't suffer from IBS anymore!
  5. by   No Stars In My Eyes
    I was on Levbid for many years, and it worked well. Then it seems many pharmacies quit stocking it, I could not fill the prescription written for me by my Gastroenterologist. Levbid fell out of favor because it contains belladonna. GASP! Belladonna could be addictive! Therefore let's err on the side of caution and NOT prescribe something that works, and put the patient on an alternative,,,that does not...by the way...'work'. Medication is medication. The OMG "DRUGS!" Freak-o-mania has left responsible medication users out in the cold because of the possibility that someone MIGHT abuse something.
    Sugar, salt, chocolate, beer and alcoholic drinks, coffee...really, the list of things people can abuse goes on and on. Humans, being human, there are always going to be people who take things too far.
    I'm back to taking Milk Thistle, which only works sort-of-okay; it was what I was using before the gastro doc put me on Levbid, which gave me real relief.
    Sorry for the rant; it's been years since this all took place and I guess you can tell it STILL makes me mad!

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