Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common health complaint that affects the digestive system. Although the trigger is not known, it has been linked to a number of factors, including food being processed passing through the gut rapidly, hereditary stress or anxiety and hypersensitive nerves.
The condition causes a number of unpleasant symptoms, including cramping in the stomach, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. Although these symptoms are not constant, they can return on a regular basis and in worst cases, can last over a few days or weeks.
Unfortunately, IBS sufferers are forced to endure this condition for a lifetime, which can go on to have a severe effect on their daily lives.
While there is no cure at the current time, you can make small changes to your diet and lifestyle, which are believed to improve the symptoms and help you live comfortably.
Mild symptoms are very treatable, but these changes to your lifestyle will need to be kept up on a long-term basis in order to see results.
Your diet is linked to the severity of your IBS symptoms and certain foods may trigger it. You’ll need to have a good think about what you’re eating on a daily basis and cut out the foods that could be the root cause of the issue.
Foods to avoid include:
IBS sufferers are also convinced that skipping meals will help – this isn’t the case. It’s essential that you’re eating regularly. However, if you’re worried about the amount you’re consuming, eat little and often instead. Sticking to a strict eating schedule trains the body to co-operate.
There is a mixture of evidence from scientist research determining whether fibre should be eaten by IBS sufferers. It would certainly be worth giving it a go, to see whether your symptoms reduce. As a general rule of thumb, increase your intake of soluble fibre if you suffer from diarrhoea and insoluble fibre for constipation.
Many doctors are now also recommending IBS sufferers to try the FODMAP diet, which is a theory based on scientific evidence; shown to reduce the symptoms of gas, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. This diet isn’t an easy one to follow and will take a great deal of commitment on your part, so it wouldn’t be advised to jump into it if you have a hectic schedule and risk dipping in and out.
Stress plays a huge factor in the severity of your IBS symptoms and can even make them long-lasting, so it’s important you can find ways to keep stress levels to a minimum. There are a number of techniques to consider when it comes to controlling stress, including the likes of:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): is a psychological form of counselling that focuses on changing certain cognitive behaviours while increasing your awareness of negative thought processes, to manage the symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Mindfulness: A psychological method of bringing your attention to the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or future through the art of meditation.
Your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter treatments such as loperamide if you have diarrhoea, or fibre supplements and laxatives for constipation.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, the doctor may also prescribe you with certain medications to take on a daily basis.
One final suggestion is taking probiotics, which are thought to improve gut and intestinal issues by repairing the balance of bacteria and leads to a boosted immune system.