I’m hearing about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) more now than ever before which affects over 58 million Americans.
IBS leads to changes in how the gastrointestinal tract works. The GI tract doesn’t become damaged, however, IBS is characterized by a collection of symptoms that can interfere with normal daily life. And though symptoms can vary from person to person, the most commonly reported ones include abdominal pain or discomfort, fullness, gas and bloating. However, other disorders and some diseases may have similar symptoms, and therefore, it is important to see a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis.
It's unsure as to exactly what causes IBS, which affects about 1 in 6 people in the U.S. and can occur at any age and is much more common in women then men. It’s also a chronic condition that may come and go. But, there are several non-pharmaceutical drugs treatment options that may help relieve some IBS symptoms:
- Monitor your symptoms to see if certain foods aggravate them and avoid foods that may stimulate your intestines (caffeine, sorbitol, lactose, wheat, fructose and alcohol are common culprits)
- Eat smaller meals; avoid large meals
- Increase intake of dietary fiber if you have constipation
- Drink plenty of liquids
- Relax more – stress is a major contributor to IBS
In addition, those with IBS may want to consider prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the intestines and may therefore, decrease one’s risk for and severity of inflammation and infection. Some studies suggest that people with IBS have a decrease in good bacteria in their guts, which may lead to or exacerbate some of their symptoms. Specific strains of probiotics, which can positively alter the makeup of gut bacteria, may also be beneficial for symptom relief.
If you suffer from IBS:
- Keep a detailed food and symptom log that you can share with your physician.
- You should soon notice some patterns and foods that aggravate your symptoms to stay away from.
- Making needed changes in your diet is critical to managing IBS symptoms.
- Always be sure to talk with your physician first before taking over-the-counter medications or making any drastic changes to your diet.
- Try a prebiotic or probiotic supplement for at least 30 days to see if it improves your symptoms
- Add more fiber to your diet gradually
- Find ways to relieve your stress - talk to a professional if needed.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, NIH
National Library of Medicine, NIH
J Nutr 2012;142(5):962-74
Diagnosis and Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Primary Care. NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 61. National Collaborating Centre for Nursing and Supportive Care (UK). London: Royal College of Nursing (UK); February 2008.