Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects the large intestine (colon) and comes with symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. While it doesn’t cause permanent damage to the colon, it can be severely uncomfortable.
As many as one in 10 people is estimated to have IBS. Its exact cause is unknown, but treatments are known. Many of those people who rely on dietary adjustments often turn to bran to help improve their symptoms caused by IBS. But a Dutch study of 275 patients shines a not-so-favorable light on that approach.
While bran can help, psyllium, a soluble fiber from vegetables, is much more effective. The researchers gave one group of their subjects psyllium and another group bran or rice flour twice a day for 12 weeks. Those who took psyllium reported an amazing 90-point drop in symptom severity, using a standard scale of rating problems. While those who took bran reported a 58-point drop and, a placebo group reported a 49-point drop.
“I think adding psyllium to the diet is the best treatment option to start with,” says researcher Dr. Niek de Wit. “In the study, people did this by adding it to things such as yoghurt and it had a real effect.”
Besides vegetables, soluble fiber is found in fruit such as apples and strawberries, as well as barley and oats.
While those who don’t suffer from IBS can benefit well from the natural occurrence of psyllium, the researchers suggest that those who do suffer from IBS supplement their diet with the soluble fiber.
“I think adding psyllium to the diet is the best treatment option to start with. In the study, people did this by adding it to things such as yogurt and it had a real effect,” says Dr. Niek de Wit.