Can Hydrogen Water Help With Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Did you know that 25 to 45 million people of all ages in the U.S. suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? (1) If you suffer from IBS, there are things you can do to ease the discomfort of this difficult but manageable disease.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disease of the large intestine that affects an estimated 10% to 15% of the population worldwide. In fact, between 20% and 40% of all gastroenterology doctor visits are for IBS symptoms. IBS is therefore a widespread illness that’s not only chronic and unpredictable but its cause is unknown and currently, there’s no cure. (1, 2, 3)
These are difficult words to hear, but a diagnosis of IBS is not a hopeless one. There are things you can try at home, such as lifestyle and dietary changes, and medications your doctor can prescribe to help ease your discomfort. In addition, there’s Echo™ hydrogen water, which has been shown to relieve gastrointestinal distress and protect against such issues in healthy individuals. (4)
IBS goes by several other names, including irritable colon and spastic colitis. IBS comprises a group of symptoms that occur simultaneously, and these symptoms vary in duration and severity among affected people; also, some people have symptoms constantly while others experience them intermittently. (3) The following are the most common symptoms of IBS (2, 3, 5):
- Abdominal cramping and pain
- Gas and bloating
- Diarrhea and constipation that alternate in a given flareup
- Changes in the frequency of bowel movements
- Changes in the appearance of bowel movements
- Depression or anxiety
For a proper diagnosis and to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms, your doctor may order one or more of the following tests (5):
- A blood test to rule out celiac disease, whose symptoms are intestinal distress and cramping
- A stool test to check for infection
- A lower gastrointestinal (GI) test, in which the doctor inserts barium into the intestines to make them more visible in X-rays to look for abnormalities
- A colonoscopy to rule out blockages or cancer
- A breath test to look for lactose intolerance, whose symptoms are similar to those of IBS
Certain foods can make IBS symptoms worse. For example, products containing wheat, dairy, carbonated drinks, beans, and citrus fruits can all exacerbate IBS. Stress can also make symptoms worse; some people report an increase in the frequency of their symptoms in times of physical, mental, or emotional strain. (2)
Though people of all ages and backgrounds can develop IBS, you’re more likely to develop it if (2):
- You are a woman. To add to this, having had estrogen therapy either before or after menopause is also a risk factor.
- You are under 50.
- IBS is in your family history.
- You have mental health trouble or a history of abuse.
The Brain-Gut Connection
The gut is often called our “second brain.” (6) The scientific name for this second brain is the enteric nervous system (ENS), and it’s made up of two layers of over 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract. The ENS’ roles are to (6):
- Regulate digestion by releasing enzymes that break down food
- Control blood flow in the gut to help with nutrient absorption and the elimination of waste
- Communicate with the main brain
That third one — that the gut communicates with the brain (and vice versa) — is an important finding. Here’s why: in the past, scientists thought that anxiety and depression caused IBS symptoms, but new research suggests that it’s the other way around. When the gastrointestinal system experiences distress, it sends signals to the brain that induce mood changes, like anxiety and depression. (6)
This new way of understanding how the gut communicates with the brain may help explain why 30% to 40% of people with IBS develop anxiety or depression. It also points to the idea that treating mental distress may help treat the gut; this is why many gastroenterologists prescribe antidepressants for IBS. Such medications that calm depression and anxiety also calm nerve cells in the ENS. (6)
What Doctors Can Do
In addition to treating the mental-health aspect of IBS with antidepressants, doctors also have four IBS-targeted prescription medications in their arsenal that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) is treated with two of these medications by reducing contractions of the bowel. IBS with constipation (IBS-C) is treated with another of these medications, which increases the secretion of intestinal fluid, thus helping stool pass. The fourth medication is an antibiotic that is thought to affect gut bacteria to reduce IBS symptoms. Doctors may also advise the use of over-the-counter fiber supplements, laxatives, or probiotics. (7, 8)
What You Can Do
- Exercise regularly: This lowers stress hormones in your body, increases your confidence (in turn increasing your well-being), and improves the quality of your sleep.
- Light candles: Doing so can help decrease anxiety. The most popular calming scents include vetiver, lavender, Roman chamomile, orange, and sandalwood.
- Decrease caffeine intake: Decrease your caffeine intake, especially if you notice that you’re jittery, hyper, or anxious.
- Keep a journal: Writing down what stresses you out and also what you’re grateful for can relieve anxiety.
- Chew gum: Some studies have shown that this reduces stress.
- Spend time with friends and family: Studies show that the bonds created and strengthened by doing so help the brain release oxytocin, a stress-relieving hormone. So much the better if there’s laughter during your social gatherings! Laughter releases muscle tension and can improve your mood and immune system.
- Take a yoga class: Yoga has been shown to improve your mood and may lower your blood pressure.
- Snuggle with a loved one or a pet: This releases oxytocin and lowers blood pressure.
- Listen to music: Turning on some slow, soothing instrumental music or nature sounds can calm you.
- Breathe deeply a few times: Focusing on breathing deeply in and out can lower your heart rate and help you feel at peace.
Another thing you can do is try altering your diet. Try eliminating broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and carbonated beverages, as these commonly cause gas and bloating. You could also try following a low FODMAP diet; FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols,” which are a group of carbohydrates that can aggravate the intestines. High FODMAP foods include (7):
- Split peas
- Processed meats
- Foods that contain wheat
Interestingly, some of these high-fiber foods can help relieve IBS-C. A great way to test which ones cause IBS symptoms is to reincorporate high-FODMAP foods into your diet one by one. This will help you to know which foods to avoid. (7)
A third thing to try is hydrogen-enriched water from an Echo™ machine, or . Hydrogen water is simply water with molecular hydrogen dissolved into it. Hydrogen is a powerful antioxidant that your gut produces naturally, but this production can be slowed or halted by an accumulation of harmful free radicals that cause disease and inflammation; this is called oxidative stress. Hydrogen is a smart antioxidant that targets the most destructive free radicals, and it can be reintroduced into the gut through hydrogen water. Studies have shown that hydrogen-enriched water can repair the gut and protect a healthy gut from gastrointestinal distress. (4, 11)
Synergy Science™ offers a line of Echo™ Machines that produce hydrogen-enriched water. Not only will hydrogen water help improve your gut health, but it also offers over 40 other health benefits, all backed by science.
Living with IBS is not easy, and it may impact your emotions and social or professional life, even if your symptoms are mild. Stress and certain foods may exacerbate the condition, or it may flare up for no reason at all. Talk with your doctor about ways to manage your IBS so that you live each day to the fullest. (1, 7)