How HMOs work: A three-pronged approach to relieving the symptoms of IBS
One of the key issues when you live with IBS is that your symptoms can be highly variable. One week you may be experiencing discomfort from bloating and constipation, the next you’re battling cramping and diarrhea.
The reason for this variability is because your IBS is caused by several irregularities in your gut, which is where HMOs play a vital role in restoring balance.
The positive links between improved digestive health and IBS
Even though IBS can often feel like an uphill battle, the great news is that there are a well-documented positive links between better digestive health and fewer IBS symptoms.
This means that when you are able to resolve some of the underlying digestive triggers for your IBS, you will usually experience far fewer symptoms.
The three core ways that HMOs work to promote improved gut health are as follows:
- By improving your gut’s microbiome
- By strengthening your intestinal barrier
- By balancing your immune system
We’ll walk you through each of these areas in more detail to explain the science behind how HMOs work, and what you should expect in terms of symptom management.
Improving your gut microbiome to help good bacteria thrive
Understanding the imbalance in those with IBS
Many people who are living with IBS (and even those with occasional digestive issues) have issues because the bacteria in their intestines are out of balance.
This is problematic as it means more bad bacteria are thriving than your system can handle.
Some of these bad bacteria are outright bad for you - they can attack your system indiscriminately. Others are less invasive, though they lead to the bloating and gas that you are all too familiar with.
Having too many bad bacteria in your gut also means that there is usually a lack of the good bacteria. This means you don’t get enough of the vital vitamins and nutrients you need for a strong gut barrier and a healthy digestive system overall. Over time, this can have an impact not just on your physical health, but your emotional well-being too.
HMOs: Your good bacteria’s best friend
Put simply: HMOs are highly effective at rebalancing your gut microbiome by allowing the good bacteria to thrive, whilst reducing the bad bacteria.
They do this by selectively feeding the good bacteria, which enables them to flourish. They also actively don’t feed your bad bacteria. Over time, this means they are out-competed by the good bacteria.
Unlike normal prebiotics which are less targeted (and can also feed the bad bacteria), HMOs are highly selective.
This means you get better results, more quickly and more effectively.
Strengthening your gut barrier to keep irritants at bay
The cracks in your gut health
Our digestive system is supported by an intestinal lining which - when functioning properly - creates a strong barrier between what is in our gut and our bodies.
In those with IBS, we often see that the gut lining has ‘cracks’ in it, which allows partially digested food, allergens or bacteria to enter into the body. This is known as a leaky gut, and it’s very common in people with IBS.
A leaky gut is not only the culprit of many IBS symptoms, but it can also have further reaching issues around the body.
Some studies show that a leaky gut may be a cause for other diseases such as autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, and even obesity.
Gut health and mental health: are they linked?
The effects of a leaky gut don’t stop there. Research shows that it can also directly impact your emotional well-being, too.
This is because the brain has a direct interaction with your stomach and digestive system. Just thinking about something you’d really like to eat can prime your stomach with the fluids it needs to process that food when it finally arrives.
Whilst the gut-brain connection is essential for normal human functioning, it can also be a double edged sword. That’s because the gut-brain connection goes both ways: your intestine can send signals to the brain just as readily as your brain can send signals to your intestines.
What this means is that stress and anxiety can not only trigger gastro-intestinal problems - they might actually be the product of your digestive issues. Resolve your digestive issues, and you may see that your mental health improves too.
HMOs: Empowering fatty acids to come the rescue
A strong gut barrier requires special nutrients, which is where HMOs come to the rescue.
HMOs provide the raw material that our gut bacteria require to produce a healthy barrier, such as vitamins, amino acids and short chain fatty acids. One of these fatty acids - butyrate - is the main energy source for cells making up our intestinal barrier.
This makes HMOs distinctly different to probiotics for a number of reasons:
Firstly, probiotics work by introducing foreign bacteria rather than rebalancing your own microbiome, which is as unique to you as your fingerprint. Rebalancing your microbiome is powerful because it improves the balance of bacteria that have been with you all your life and know how to survive in you.
Secondly, probiotics tend to be less effective as they often do not survive stomach acids; and, for those that do arrive alive in the colon, they have a very poor record of colonizing because they are not adapted to survive in you. What this means is that they cannot really balance your bacteria and the effects they have can be very short lived.
HMOs, on the other hand have long-lasting effects by helping your body to restore its natural balance, day after day.
Balancing the immune system to calm your digestive health
Our immune system is vitally important for our digestive health, and our health in general.
An unbalanced immune system could lead to many of the symptoms you experience as part of your IBS. An overactive immune system can cause inflammation, and an underactive system simply won’t protect you from harmful bacteria or viruses.
Eventually, if left unchecked, your immune system will actually begin to attack your microbiome, leading to a vicious cycle of immune-to-gut problems.
A key part of restoring digestive health is, therefore, to address any issues with the immune system, which HMOs do by feeding the good bacteria of your unique intestinal microbiota to balance it.
This allows your intestinal microbiota to produce the essential nutrients that your immune system needs. Over time, this helps to fundamentally balance the immune system, and gives you just the right level of protection without over responses.
This three pronged approach to restoring digestive health makes HMOs an incredibly effective for people living with IBS. In fact, our initial research shows that over 85% of those who take Holigos™ IBS are satisfied with their results.
If you’d like to read more on the effectiveness of HMOs, head back here to see more on what the data shows.
If you’re thinking of starting to take HMOs, read on for more information on some of the key things to expect when you begin your journey to better gut health through HMOs.