How To Live With IBS
By Ryan Stallard
Canada has one of the world’s highest rates of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The condition is one of the most common reasons for visiting a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in the digestive system. IBS is an intestinal disorder characterized by problems with the way the bowel moves contents through it. It can seriously reduce a person’s ability to enjoy life— if the symptoms are not managed well. That’s why awareness of the facts are important to know.
What it is.
There is no specific cause for the development of IBS. While IBS does not cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract, it can be painful. The cluster of symptoms related to IBS is caused by altered muscle and nerve function in the intestinal tract.People living with IBS often have a heightened awareness of their gastrointestinal tract’s response to environmental stimulus because of nerve function changes. This means that they react more to intestinal distension, or the accumulation of gas in the gut. Alterations in the bacterial balance within the intestinal tract—such as a bacteria overgrowth in the small intestine—is probably related to the condition.
What it looks like.Symptoms that are common in those who suffer from IBS include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, presence of mucus in the stool, feelings on incomplete evacuation, and rapid onset of either diarrhea or constipation. These symptoms must persist for at least three consecutive months. A doctor must diagnose IBS, and before issuing a diagnosis, will first conduct tests to ensure no other diseases may be causing the symptoms. If you feel like you may be suffering from IBS see your doctor for testing options.
While stress does not cause IBS it can worsen symptoms and can even override therapeutic efforts.
What to do.
While there is no cure for IBS, diet and lifestyle changes can help to manage the symptoms associated with the condition.
Work with a registered dietitian.
A registered dietitian can help you identify foods that cause symptoms without overly restricting your diet. The goal of the dietitian will be to reduce or eliminate your symptoms while at the same time meeting all of your specific nutrient needs.If you have been diagnosed with IBS, working with a registered dietitian at Medcan in our Nutrition Counseling program can help ensure you are meeting all of your nutrient needs while still managing your symptoms.
Use probiotic supplements. These products can help balance the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, and can sometimes reduce symptoms. Products shown to improve IBS include Culturelle (www.culturelle.com), Align (www.aligngi.com), and VSL #3 (www.vsl3.ca). Take your probiotic supplement daily or as recommended by your doctor or dietitian.
Consider a FODMAP diet. These are eating plans that remove foods that are easily fermentable by gut bacteria. These meal plans can help reduce symptoms in those who have no other gastrointestinal condition. These diets limit foods that contain lactose, fructose, fructans, galactans and sugar alcohols. Starting a FODMAP diet can take several weeks and should be managed by a registered dietitian to properly identify trigger foods and avoid overly restricting your food intake.
Drink more fluids. Fluids are important, especially if you are experiencing constipation. Women should drink nine cups and men 12 cups of fluid every day. All fluids but alcohol count, such as water, milk, unsweetened tea and coffee, and soup broth.
Avoid bloating. When adding more fluid avoid sipping hot beverages and avoid using a straw for cold beverages. Straws and hot beverages can lead to excess amounts of air being swallowed, contributing to gas in the gut. Other ways to reduce swallowed air? Eat more slowly, keep your mouth closed when chewing, and avoid chewing gum.
Things to avoid:
- Large meals
- Excessive amounts of alcohol
- High intakes of sugar, caffeine, and fatty foods
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Carbonated drinks
Things to include:
- Uncooked broccoli and carrots
- Apples and peaches
- Kidney beans, peas, chickpeas
- Whole grains: breads and cereals
- Regular eating patterns
- Stress management (if it is a trigger)
Ryan Stallard is a registered dietitian on Medcan’s Nutrition Counselling Team. To book an appointment with him or any other Medcan dietitian, contact the booking team at (416) 350-5900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.