Syndrome or symptom? How the gut microbiome impacts IBS

Gut Health

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a digestive condition that results in abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and other GI upset for those affected. There’s a significant negative impact on quality of life and health for individuals experiencing IBS.

Even worse, physicians don’t know what causes IBS, so effective treatment is challenging. 

The good news is that the emerging focus on the importance of gut health and our gut microbiome sheds light on the causes and potential treatments for irritable bowel syndrome.

We will explore this exciting new development in the article and answer questions like:

  • How does Gut Health affect IBS?
  • Gut Healthy Approaches to reducing IBS symptoms.
  • Other approaches to healing IBS 
  • Healing IBS the Betr Way
  • 3 Studies linking IBS to Gut Health

Keep reading for a primer on gut health and irritable bowel syndrome. 

How does Gut Health affect IBS?

Historically, physicians have struggled to understand the causes and treatments of irritable bowel syndrome. But, in recent decades, researchers have been paying more attention to the role of the gut microbiome and inflammation.

The current thinking is that specific environmental factors disturb the balance of beneficial bacteria in a person’s gut, causing an immune response and inflammation that translates into IBS symptoms.

Think of your gut bacteria as the maintenance crew of your intestinal lining. They’re in charge of keeping the intestinal wall solid. When the gut microbiome is disturbed, it can’t focus on keeping the intestinal wall strong. 

When the good bacteria move out, the harmful bacteria start causing direct damage to the intestinal wall. Soon the wall is full of holes, and things inside and outside of the gut don’t stay in their proper place. This situation is called increased intestinal permeability and can cause an immune and inflammatory crisis. 

This theory isn’t a shot in the dark. Numerous studies have shown meaningful differences between the gut microbiome of IBS patients and those of “healthy” individuals. These differences include less diverse and healthy species of bacteria in the gut microbiome of people with IBS. 

This understanding of gut health’s impact on IBS aligns with Betr’s knowledge of the root of most diseases. Antibiotic overuse, poor diet, stress, and environmental toxicity disrupt the gut microbiome, resulting in constant inflammation and poor health. 


Unhealthy changes to the gut microbiome may contribute to symptoms of IBS.

Gut Healthy Approaches to reducing IBS symptoms.

Betr recognizes the gut microbiome as the “guard” of overall health. How can you keep your gut healthy to reduce symptoms of IBS? 

IBS and Probiotics

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain species of beneficial bacteria that are good for your gut microbiome. Research also suggests that probiotic use could improve symptoms related to IBS.

Probiotics may have a two-pronged approach to healing IBS. 

First, numerous studies have shown that probiotics reduce IBS symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain. 

The other exciting way probiotics can improve IBS symptoms is through the relationship between our gut health and mental health, known as the Gut-Brain Axis. Betr reviews the details of the Gut-Brain axis extensively in The Truth Behind Gut Feelings

Evidence shows that depression, anxiety, and IBS exhibit similar changes in the gut microbiome. Changes like altered species diversity, intestinal permeability, and immune activation in the gut. Also, it’s common for individuals with IBS to also experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Researchers took this hypothesis one step further and tested the effects of probiotics on symptoms of anxiety and depression. They found that probiotic treatment improved psychological symptoms like depression. 

The effect of specific strains and dosages on gut health and IBS symptoms needs further research. 

IBS and Prebiotics

Another approach to IBS treatment is the use of prebiotics. Prebiotics are sugars our human digestive enzymes don’t break down, but our microbiome needs to thrive. If probiotics are the bacteria we need in our gut, prebiotics are their food. In fact, probiotic supplements often contain prebiotics in the capsule. 

Several studies have shown that prebiotic treatment reduces symptoms and improves the quality of life for individuals with IBS. As with probiotics, more research is needed to establish reliable dosing and formulation. 

Gut Healthy Diet and IBS

Diet can impact both an individual’s gut health and the severity of IBS symptoms. The challenge for IBS patients is finding the combination of foods that improve symptoms. 

Because of the known connection between the gut microbiome and irritable bowel syndrome, it’s reasonable to assume that a diet that’s good for the gut microbiome would be good for improving IBS.  

It’s also essential that the diet addresses the potential underlying causes of IBS, such as intestinal permeability and inflammation. 


Many approaches to improving gut health have a positive impact on IBS symptoms, but more research may be needed. 

Other approaches to healing IBS 

Many of the more extreme approaches to treating IBS recognize the importance of gut health. Unfortunately, according to the research, many of these treatments can harm gut health more than they help or, at best, have questionable effectiveness. 


FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols.” In non-nerd terms, a low-FODMAP diet removes sugars and fiber from the diet that are more difficult for the body to break down.

The logic here is pretty sound, as large amounts of these fibers and sugars can cause gas, abdominal pain, and bloating in healthy people, even more so in people with IBS. 

In a study of rats, a low FODMAP diet decreased intestinal permeability and inflammatory markers;  and increased positive changes in the microbiome.

Scientists are concerned that a long-term low-FODMAP diet may result in a lack of dietary diversity. This lack of diversity could lead to the same issue of an unhealthy microbiome and increase symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. So Low FODMAP diets should be part of an elimination/reintroduction protocol (like Betr?). 

Fecal Microbial Transplants

Fecal microbial transplants involve transplanting feces from a healthy donor microbiome into an individual with an unbalanced gut microbiome. Heard of “poop shakes?” Yep, that’s what this is. 

As “bananas” as this process sounds, it makes some sense. After all, what’s a better probiotic than healthy gut bacteria from someone else’s gut? 

The major downfall of fecal microbial transplant is that the results of studies land all over the place. It sometimes seems to reduce symptoms, but other times shows no meaningful results. 

There are a lot of reasons this could be true. Our microbiomes are unique as our DNA, and it is difficult to know if a donor is “good” for a specific IBS patient. This gut health IBS treatment is still in the experimental phase.  

We’ll pass on the poop shakes for now.


Think of this as the “nuclear option” of using gut health to treat IBS. The logic behind this treatment is that targeted antibiotic use could, in theory, eliminate unhealthy bacterial species in the microbiome that could be causing IBS symptoms. 

The reality is that most research points to antibiotics as decreasing the health and diversity of the microbiome and having a net negative impact on gut health. 

Research on rifaximin, an antibiotic that only acts in the gut, has some beneficial effects on IBS patients’ symptoms. But even in this case, the results have been mixed. 

Betr has seen a significant reduction in symptoms in our members diagnosed with IBS by using healthy, healing food to decrease inflammation and restore the gut microbiome. 

Ultimately, talk with your doctor to decide which approach to treating your IBS has acceptable risks and benefits. 


While many approaches have been studied in the treatment of IBS, results have been mixed. 

Healing IBS symptoms the Betr way

Betr has had tremendous success helping individuals with IBS diagnoses heal their symptoms and improve their overall health. Betr uses a hybrid approach to treating IBS through gut health to provide a holistic, sustainable, enjoyable approach to healing. 

The primary approach of Betr toward irritable bowel syndrome is to use healthy, whole food to overcome inflammation and restore gut health. Betr uses a three-step protocol to free the body from inflammation, identify food sensitivity, and help individuals develop a lifelong approach to health and wellness.

Identifying problematic foods is especially important for individuals with IBS. Betr coaches work one-on-one with members to help troubleshoot dietary challenges and identify symptoms caused by “trigger foods.” Individuals diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome are often more sensitive and have more trigger foods than someone without IBS.

Betr’s Level 1 food list has shown over years of experience to help individuals with severe IBS (and other chronic diseases) give their bodies a break! Once these foods have helped relieve the burden of inflammation and restore the gut microbiome, members can introduce foods back into their diet and watch for symptoms. 

Even individuals who have battled IBS symptoms and trigger foods for years have good results with Betr. Through healing inflammation and restoring gut health, they can reintroduce and enjoy foods that previously caused significant irritable bowel flares. 


Betr uses a research-backed, easy approach to improve gut health and heal inflammation. The Betr protocol has shown positive results for many members diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.

3 Studies linking IBS to Gut Health

  1. Alterations in Composition and Diversity of the Intestinal Microbiota in Patients with Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It might not have the catchiest name, but this study is at the root of the connection between gut health and irritable bowel syndrome. The researchers evaluated bacterial DNA in the gut microbiome of healthy individuals and compared it to individuals with IBS. 

They found that individuals with IBS had lower diversity consistently in their gut microbiome. This study doesn’t go so far as to say poor gut health causes IBS, but it lays the groundwork for further research. 

  1. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome.

The name says it all. These researchers tested various diets, primarily “plant-based” vs. “animal-based,” to determine if there were predictable differences in effects on gut bacteria. 

Drum roll….of course, there were! And the differences were predictable. 

The icing on the cake was that researchers found a higher fat, “animal-based” diet that resulted in changes in the gut. These changes included a microbiome containing more of the bacterial species most associated with inflammatory bowel disorders like IBS.

  1. Pathogenesis of IBS: role of inflammation, immunity, and neuroimmune interactions

This study doesn’t address the gut microbiome and IBS directly. But, it does analyze how irritable bowel syndrome impacts the function of the gut. It outlines the effects of IBS on inflammation, the immune system, and hormone levels in the gut, all of which can also affect (and are affected by) the gut microbiome. 

If there are three things that we want you to take away from this discussion of gut health and IBS:

  • Current research indicates that the health of the gut microbiome might significantly contribute to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Treatments aimed at improving the diversity and health of the gut microbiome like probiotics, prebiotics, and a healthy diet may positively impact IBS.
  • The Betr approach utilizes current research and food as medicine to heal your gut microbiome, reduce inflammation, and reverse the effects of IBS and other serious diseases.

Hopefully, this emerging field of research linking irritable bowel syndrome and gut health will provide new answers to individuals worldwide. 

In the meantime, Betr’s experience with the benefits of healthy, natural food’s ability to heal inflammation. 


  1. Pathogenesis of IBS: role of inflammation, immunity and neuroimmune interactions
  2. Identification of an Intestinal Microbiota Signature Associated With Severity of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  3. Molecular analysis of the luminal- and mucosal-associated intestinal microbiota in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome
  4. Efficacy of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: systematic review and meta-analysis
  5. Probiotics and Subclinical Psychological Symptoms in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
  6. The gut microbiome and irritable bowel syndrome
  7. FODMAP Diet Modulates Visceral Nociception by Changing Gut Microbiota and Intestinal Inflammation
  8. The Pervasive Effects of an Antibiotic on the Human Gut Microbiota, as Revealed by Deep 16S rRNA Sequencing
  9. The efficacy and safety of rifaximin for the irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  10. Alterations in Composition and Diversity of the Intestinal Microbiota in Patients with Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  11. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome

After reading this article, you may be asking yourself if your own health hurdles could be related to an unhealthy gut.

Explore Betr's risk-free trial to see if you could benefit from using food as medicine to rebuild your microbiome and realize the healthy potential you never knew you were missing!