Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal diseases diagnosed. Yet most people don’t know exactly what it is, how to prevent it, or what to do about it if they have been diagnosed or suspect they have it.
What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome basically means that your bowel is not working properly, resulting in pain and build-up of wind. The two most significant problems that IBS sufferers have is either constipation (inability or having difficulty to go to the toilet) or diarrhoea (loose bowel motions and the constant sensation of needing to go to the toilet).
How does this Irritation occur?
It is still unclear how a person gets Irritable Bowel Syndrome; although some experts claim that the main triggers may be stressful life events, food triggers, gastroenteritis infections and other health conditions, like Fibromyalgia. Dr David Rowbotham, a gastroenterologist states, “it is also more likely to occur in highly stressed and introspective individuals … stress, fatigue, foods containing wheat, dairy products, spices and caffeine,” can also trigger the symptoms.
Women are particularly inclined to this condition, although it remains unclear whether or not hormonal changes in women may have some effect on this.
How do I know if my bowel is irritated?
Dr David Rowbotham generally classifies the symptoms of being predominately constipation, diarrhoea, or alternating motions. The majority of IBS sufferers will experience cramping and bloating in the lower abdomen, usually eased after relieving wind.
There are symptoms that seem to be linked to IBS without anyone knowing the cause. Tiredness is predominately seen in those with IBS. There is a perceived possibility that nutrients are not absorbed properly, resulting in nutrient deficiency causing fatigue. Genealogical problems are linked to IBS, with some reporting that they suffer from painful periods or painful sexual intercourse. Bladder problems and lower back pain are also reported in sufferers.
Are there ways I can reduce my symptoms?
Tim King, from the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology says “lifestyle changes such as regular, smaller, plainer meals, and exercise or other relaxation techniques are often recommended.”
Diet is usually the first to be assessed by your doctor. When re-evaluating your diet, remember that the flare-up of symptoms could be the result of foods consumed in the past 1-3 days, not just the last meal.
There is a phase going around about the Exclusion diet. The main principle of this diet is changing your carbohydrate intake from wheat to rice. This diet is especially helpful for those that suffer from excess flatulence and bloating.
“One of the single most helpful supplements for irritable bowel syndrome is Lactobacillus acidophilus.” A claim made in the book the Herbal Drugstore. This supplement can be found in capsule or powder form. Although some experts debate the benefits.
Janet Wright recommends trying to eat more of raspberries, apples, artichoke, cucumber, black pepper, cumin, ginger, peppermint, pears, figs and prunes.
Increasing your activity level everyday will help to reduce bouts of constipation, improve digestion, decrease stress levels and aid in reducing the build-up of wind.
You do not have to work-out for hours on end, but 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, such as a brisk walk, will do the trick.
What’s the next step?
The first thing to do is start a food diary. Write down everything you eat and drink every day. At the end of each day, write down your symptoms. After a couple of weeks look back through your diary. Usually there is a food or a couple of foods that dominate your diet. Each week remove one food that you may think is a trigger. If your symptoms do not change – for the better or get worse, then select another food.
“A lot of it is trial and error,” says David E. Beck.M.D. But for most people when they eat more of a certain food it is an indicator that they have intolerance toward it. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure, or a nutritionist. They will be able to give you alternatives without depriving you, and may recommend just cutting back on something, not eliminating it altogether.
Remember, don’t eliminate too much from your diet all at once, as it will be tricky to find out what exactly could be the trigger. You don’t want to take out healthy foods if you don’t have to.
Reducing stress levels not only can lessen the severity of IBS, but can help in avoiding suffering from the condition in the first place.
Depending on your stress levels and what is causing them, some may benefit from counselling. A counsellor will be able to help you to figure the main contributors to your stress and ways to effectively deal with the stress, as well as ways to deal with a tough situation when it arises.
Yoga in combination with breathing exercises will help you to relax, and enable you to deal with the harder spots in life by recruiting the relaxation techniques even when you are out.
Talk to a beauty therapist, they may be able to advise you on some treatments that can ease certain symptoms, or just to provide relaxation after a stressful period. Some comment that reflexology is shown to improve bowel motions when they are constipated; they describe it almost as if the hand motions on the foot directly correspond to pushing everything forward.
Other alternatives to consider
Unfortunately for many IBS sufferers’ sodas, coffee and other caffeinated drinks can be a trigger, especially of diarrhoea. Herbal teas such as ginger, peppermint, fennel, caraway, slippery elm and chamomile all help with the digestive process; preventing constipation and diarrhoea, as well as promoting a sense of calm. In the herb or essential oil form they do relatively the same. Herbs can be added to foods and drinks, while the essential oils can be blended with a carrier oil to rub on the stomach – easing stomach cramps and constipation.
Green tea is another important tea that helps with constipation, digestion, burning of calories and detoxifying, amongst many other benefits. Fresh green tea leaves adds a refreshing change to the tea bags.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not end all. It does not mean you cannot enjoy foods you love. Just be mindful of what you are eating, eat the foods in small amounts and accompany the foods with regular exercise. Just like with anything, enjoy in moderation, and remember there are others out there who know what you are going through.
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