April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, so we’ve got guts on our minds today. As many as 20% of Canadians suffer from this chronic gastrointestinal disorder, with symptoms that include abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Fortunately, there are diet and lifestyle choices you can make to help relieve your IBS symptoms. These changes may not offer a quick-fix solution, but can encourage long-term success in managing this disorder. Here’s a look at some home-treatment options:
- Find a fibre balance that works for you. People suffering from IBS may find relief from constipation with increased fibre intake, but may also experience an increase in gas and cramping. Try slowly adding more fibre-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans to your diet and see how you feel. Incorporating a digestive aid of multi enzymes to your routine can help your body to break down and absorb the nutrients in these foods while reducing gas, bloating and other symptoms.
- Eat regularly. Maintaining a consistent schedule of well-balanced and moderately sized meals can be an important factor in the management of IBS symptoms and the regulation of bowel function. Try keeping a food diary at first to see where your eating patterns can improve. For diarrhea sufferers, small and frequent meals may be beneficial, while people suffering from constipation may prefer larger amounts of high-fibre foods to get things moving.
- Avoid trigger foods. Fatty foods, dairy, beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar-free sweeteners and MSG are some of the foods that have been known to cause problems for IBS patients. Some people find that consuming too much liquid with a meal or swallowing too much air while chewing gum or drinking through a straw can worsen symptoms. Gastrointestinal stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol should be avoided, particularly when diarrhea is a symptom. Discovering which foods work and don’t work for you can require patience, but paying attention to your body’s cues will pay off eventually.
- You are more than what you eat. Diet may play a large role in how intensely your IBS symptoms affect you, but it isn’t the only consideration. Other lifestyle factors can make an impression as well. While IBS is a physical disorder, emotions such as stress, depression, panic or anxiety may aggravate symptoms. Relaxation training, exercise, and good sleeping habits can help to reduce your stress levels and increase your quality of life by positively influencing your IBS symptoms.
- Be proactive with a probiotic. Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in your gastrointestinal system is important to your overall health and wellbeing. Probiotics are the “good” living microorganisms that are essential to a happy, properly functioning gut. Unfortunately, probiotic-boasting foods such as yogurt do not contain anywhere near enough live probiotics to be of any actual benefit. For effective results, select a clinically proven, high-dose, single-strain probiotic such as Integris 30, which contains 30 billion live colony-forming units per capsule.
Every body is different, so everybody with IBS may experience the disorder differently. Taking the time to understand your symptoms and come up with a plan that works for you is an important step in finding relief from the pain and discomfort of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. For more information about IBS symptoms, treatments and support, visit the GI Society’s website at badgut.org.