When you take a look at the statistics, it appears that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the big problem no one wants to talk about. IBS is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder, affecting 10-15 percent of people worldwide. Yet an estimated 90 percent of them do not seek medical treatment for their symptoms.
It’s understandable why many patients are reluctant to seek help for IBS. Some may feel that their condition is not serious enough to warrant medical attention, while others may be too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms with their doctor. IBS that goes untreated will not produce permanent complications such as rectal bleeding or colon cancer, but it can greatly interfere with quality of life.
In many cases, IBS can be alleviated through simple modifications to your diet and lifestyle. Try making some of these changes to help manage your symptoms and maintain a healthy gut.
- Identify problem foods – Try to narrow down which foods aggravate your symptoms, and do your best to avoid them. Dairy, alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners are often problematic for IBS sufferers. You may also be affected by foods that are fattening or cause gas.
- Eat at regular times – Sticking to a meal schedule helps to promote bowel regularity. Try to eat your meals at the same time every day. Avoid skipping meals and keep snacking to a minimum.
- Stay hydrated – Drinking plenty of water helps to prevent constipation, a common symptom of IBS. Limit intake of alcohol, caffeinated beverages and carbonated drinks, as these may cause gas or diarrhea.
- Bulk up on fiber – Fiber acts as a bulking agent to help move stool through the colon, but it may cause gas or cramping in some individuals. Increase your fiber intake by consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If these foods cause you to experience gas or bloating, try taking a fiber supplement instead.
Limit usage of over-the-counter medications – Anti-diarrheals and laxatives can be helpful in managing IBS symptoms, but these medications should be used sparingly. Incorrect usage could lead to complications, including an increase in your symptoms (Source: The Mayo Clinic).
IBS is not curable, but it is a manageable condition. If lifestyle and diet changes alone are not enough to manage your IBS symptoms, talk to your doctor about additional treatment options. Getting the right kind of help will improve more than just gut health – it will improve your quality of life!