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Soluble Fiber Soothes Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Study Finds

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, August 28, 2009 7:22 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: IBS, Metamucil, Psyllium, Fiber, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Living Healthy


IMAGE SOURCE: © Metamucil Fiber

People that suffer from abdominal pain and discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome may find relief with Psyllium, the soluble fiber in Metamucil and other such products.

But, they'll get no relief -- and perhaps more bowel upset -- from bran, an insoluble fiber, according to the findings of a new Dutch study.

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, causes misery for up to 58 million Americans, mostly women.

It's a chronic condition that affects the large intestine (colon). IBS symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating gas, diarrhea and constipation. There are IBS treatments such as diet and lifestyle changes and medications that can help. The cause is unknown.

Researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands enrolled 275 IBS patients for the study. They were randomly assigned to three groups for 12 weeks. One group received two 10-gram doses of psyllium, daily, mixed with yogurt. The second group was given similar doses of bran, and the third group was given a non-fiber placebo (rice flour) to mix with their yogurt.

Participants taking psyllium received significantly more relief than those assigned placebo and some reported they had pain-free periods lasting as long as two weeks while taking fiber. The participants assigned to wheat bran, however, showed no significant improvement and many of them dropped out of the trial because their symptoms worsened.

According to WebMD, you cannot prevent IBS. However, proper self-care may help to minimize symptoms and extend the time between episodes. This includes avoiding caffeine and foods that worsen symptoms, quitting smoking and getting regular exercise.

The study appears online in the August 27 issue of BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal. #

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