How To Deal With Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder, rather than a disease, in which the bowel doesn't work as it should. Certain foods will cause an IBS sufferer to react, with symptoms arising from abnormal spasms of the gut wall. These can include abdominal cramps, bloating, wind and alternating constipation and diarrhea.
What causes it?
Unfortunately, doctors don't know what causes IBS. Stress can aggravate symptoms but does not cause them. It is a very individual problem, with different IBS sufferers finding that different foods cause problems for them, so a little trial and error is needed in finding a diet that best eases individual symptoms.
What can I do to alleviate symptoms?
Keeping a food diary on Nutracheck is a great idea because you can also make a note of when you experience discomfort, which means you have a documented record of food and symptoms to help you discover which foods are a trigger. A detailed food diary would also be useful in any discussions with a health professional.
In the meantime, here are some tips which seem to help the majority of sufferers:
- Eat Regularly. You may find large meals over-stimulate the gut and that eating little and often with a focus on starchy foods (e.g. potatoes, pasta and rice) is better.
- Increase Dietary Fibre. Eating more fibre helps keep the colon mildly distended which reduces the risk of it going into spasm. Aim for at least three to five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, together with higher fibre versions of cereals, bread, rice and pasta.
- Avoid Offending Foods. IBS sufferers don't seem to suffer from true food allergies, but they may be more likely to experience intolerances to food such as spices, wheat and milk, resulting in intestinal discomfort. Caffeine sometimes causes flare-ups, so watch out how many coffees you drink.
- Reduce Fat Intake. Some IBS sufferers find that fat acts as a stimulus to bowel contractions, so avoid very greasy meals that might send you rushing to the toilet.
Additionally, supplements that may help include:
- Pro-biotic drinks such as Actimel
- Peppermint oil to ease flatulence and cramps
- Psyllium husk which bulks out the bowel in constipated sufferers aiding bowel movement. Use sparingly to start with however, as a particular sensitivity to soluble fibre may cause bloating.