Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects the large intestine (colon). About one in five Americans experience the symptoms of IBS but the cause is unknown. Different factors may contribute to IBS such as heredity, lifestyle, allergies, infections, hormones, bacteria, and sometimes certain foods or stress may trigger symptoms. Usually IBS can be controlled through diet changes, stress management, and a healthy active lifestyle. The symptoms, while uncomfortable, will usually not cause permanent damage to your intestines.
Abdominal pain, cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea, bloating, and gassiness. While most people may experience these symptoms every once and a while, a person with IBS will experience them for at least 3 days a month for 3 or more months. Your doctor can help rule out other causes for the symptoms.
Stress – for people with IBS, stress can stimulate spasms in the intestines causing discomfort or pain.
Diet – a large or fatty meal may lead to worsening symptoms. If the symptoms arise after consuming dairy products, this may be lactose intolerance, not IBS.
Hormones – some hormones releases around the menstrual cycle for women may lead to IBS symptoms
Diet and Lifestyle Changes to Try
Time and amount of food: eat at regularly schedules times to help regulate your bowels. Also, avoid large, fatty meals – consume smaller more frequent meals.
Chew your food well: eating slowly and chewing your food well can help reduce gassiness and bloating
Eat more fiber: fiber-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains can help move food through your intestines better. Start increasing fiber slowly, too much fiber all at once may intensify your symptoms
Drink enough water: not enough water may cause you to become constipated because your body will pull the water it needs from your intestines
Identify problem foods: Keep a food diary to see what you ate when flare ups occur. Sometimes, alcohol, caffeine, or artificial sweeteners may cause symptoms.
Exercise: regular activity helps to keep your bowls moving and healthy
Talk to your doctor about treatment options. Meet with a registered dietitian (like me!) to plan a diet that helps to reduce the frequency or severity of your IBS symptoms.