Posted 11/15/2005 9:27 AM (GMT -7)
I figure there are two times of inflammation: there's the kind that is caused by having too much acid in your intestines (excess bile), or by having an allergic reaction to certain foods or by having bad bacteria. If you have acid reflux, you will have an inflamed esophagus. If you have hives, you have inflamed skin. If you have an infection in a wound, you will have inflamed skin around it. Basically, this first type of inflammation is surface inflammation, not unlike having a sunburn.
Then there's the second kind of inflammation, where you have a deeper inflammation and swelling. This is more akin to having inflammed joints--which anyone will tell you is more painful than just a sunburn. This sort of inflammation causes functional problems as well. Touching a sunburn hurts, but you can get on with life. An inflammed knee, however, may not bend. A lightly inflamed intestine will work with some pain, but a deeply inflamed intestine may not work much at all and hurt a lot worse.
That's my theory at any rate. I figure excess bile running through my intestines surely burns them as acid will burn anything. And a burn is a type of inflammation, albeit on the surface. Bad bacteria probably aggrevate the surface of the intestines too, like the oils in poison ivy can aggrevate the skin. And of course allergies will always produce some sort of allergic reaction. Of course, all of these examples are of external things acting on the intestines; IBD inflammation is not caused by anything external, that I'm aware of. It flares up on its own (internal causes).
Personally, I found a lot of relief from diarrhea and cramping by eating yogurt. When I got tired of it, though, I switched to probiotics and went back to having diarrhea (although without any more pain). When I switched from probiotics to calcium, however, I got better again. I think it wasn't the probiotics that helped me, but the calcium. I have read that calcium is soothing and can reduce infammation, so I figure it helped heal my intestines from all of that excess bile I was putting through them. Not to mention the sugar alcohol I had by accident. My guts never recovered after getting into that. I figure I had some sort of reaction to it beyond the normal "laxative effect." Maybe I'm allergic to them; I've certainly had worse reactions to it every time I've eaten any and in much smaller amounts. Anyways, that 1 gram of xylitol messed me up but for good.
Not all people have IBS caused by inflammation, though; some people have it caused by bad bacteria, so the probiotics will help them. I have heard that it can take a while to take effect, though. I still eat yogurt when I want some because it never hurts to have some extra good bacteria in there, regardless of your health. There are some studies out or in the works that indicate the healthier our guts are, the more immunity we have from other diseases. My G.I's N.P. swore by Culturelle. Said she started it a week before she went to Mexico on some mission work and took it religiously every day while she was down there for three weeks (and I think she took it for a week after she got back) and she was the only person in her group not to get diarrhea while she was there.
If you can tolerate yogurt, I would say eat it rather than pop the pills. The calcium is good for everybody and it may just help your intestines as well as the probiotics do. Not to mention I have no problems with full fat yogurt (you don't have to eat it full-fat, though), but acidophilllus pills give me mild gas cramps. I don't think when you eat it is a big deal. Maybe it causes less gas if you eat it with something else, but from what I've read it makes little difference to the number of bacteria that actually make it to your intestines. Whether eaten with other food or alone, you stomach acids will destroy a lot of them. My theory on medicine is to take it when you remember it. I keep my welchol and calcium out next to my sink (almost nothing else on the counter, so they're easy to see), so I see them in the morning when I go to fix my hair and see the bottles most evenings as I come out of the toilet room. Sometimes I forget my evening dose, but I don't think it is as important as the one I take to start my day (which I take an hour or better before I eat breakfast, so it's had time to get in there and work before I start putting anything in there).