Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gut Health
IBS symptoms include excessive bloating, gas, diarrhoea or constipation.
The good news? It can often be managed through careful diet and lifestyle choices.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder. Symptoms are, much as the name suggests, indicative of an irritated bowel such as excessive bloating, gas, abdominal distention (enlarged and hard), diarrhoea or constipation.
Read on to find out more about diagnosis, treatment and how altering your diet can help with symptoms.
IBS is most common in women and affects around 12% of the population (1).
As of yet we aren’t sure what causes it but it seems to run in families and be affected by diet and stress. IBS does not seem to have any long term health consequences but can drastically alter a person's quality of life in severe cases. Luckily IBS can often be managed through careful diet and lifestyle choices.
Recurrent abdominal pain on average at least 1 day a week in the last 3 months, associated with two or more of the following criteria:
- Related to defecation
- Associated with a change in the frequency of stool
- Associated with a change in the form (appearance) of stool
IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterised by abdominal pain associated with defecation and distinct changes in stool habits and appearance.
What to do if you suspect you have IBS?
First Line of Action
If you think you may have IBS please discuss this with your Doctor. There is no test for IBS therefore other gastrointestinal disorders that we do have tests for will usually be tested for first, such as coeliac disease. Once these have been excluded, providing you fit the diagnostic criteria, you may be diagnosed with IBS. It is important to get symptoms checked by your Doctor as symptoms of much more serious conditions, such as diverticular disease, can be mistaken for IBS.
Second Line of Action
Once you have been diagnosed with IBS you should reduce consumption of obvious gastrointestinal irritants from your diet to see if this relieves symptoms. These are common offenders for those with sensitive guts:
Third Line of Action
If symptoms are not reduced with the removal of common irritants then you may want to go on to a low FODMAP diet. FODMAPS are a group of fermentable carbohydrates, many of which seem to be harder for those with IBS to digest. A low FODMAP diet reduces consumption of some fruits and vegetables, milk and wheat products. The low FODMAP diet is NOT meant to be a long term solution for IBS. This diet should be tackled alongside a Dietician/ Nutritionist to be carried out effectively and only for a maximum of 4-6 weeks to ascertain which FODMAPS are the culprit (2).
If you suspect you have IBS you must alert your doctor. They will diagnose you accordingly. Some people can reduce symptoms by reducing some common dietary irritants but if that is not the case for you please seek help from a professional for guidance through a low FODMAP diet.
Find out more about FODMAP diets!
For more in depth information on how to safely carry out a low FODMAP diet, watch Amy’s IBS and Digestive Issues chat on DediKate Eat Great!
Read on to find out more about how to manage IBS long term....
Trying some of the following alterations to your diet and lifestyle may help ease the symptoms of IBS:
Limit Dietary Irritants
Once you have identified the common irritants, such as alcohol, caffeine, dairy, spices and fat that your gut is particularly sensitive to, limit your dietary consumption of these. This does not mean you have to abolish them entirely from your diet. You should continue to limit them to an amount that you can quite literally stomach.
Limiting FODMAPS is not always necessary but if you have taken the time to identify the particular FODMAPS that you have trouble digesting, you should limit these. Again, this does not mean you have to abolish them entirely from your diet. You should continue to limit them to an amount that works for your digestive system.
Increase Soluble Fibre
Increasing soluble (dissolvable in water) fibre allows you to keep fibre intake high in the diet whilst avoiding some of those harder to digest insoluble fibre types.
Hydration can help regularity of bowel movements and consistency of the stool. Current recommendations are to drink 1.5-3 litres of water per day. Avoid carbonated drinks.
Regular Eating Pattern
Keeping a regular eating pattern and avoiding skipping meals reduces flare ups of IBS.
Physical activity has been found to reduce symptoms of IBS such as gas, bloating and constipation. It is recommended that those with IBS carry out moderate exercise such as brisk walking, swimming or biking for at least 30 minutes most days (3).
The jury is still out on whether probiotics can significantly help with IBS symptoms but it is unlikely to cause more harm provided you introduce them to your diet in isolation and monitor any gastrointestinal symptoms from there.
Stress and anxiety can often trigger symptoms of IBS. Stress management tools such as meditation and yoga can help with IBS symptoms.
Have you tried the meditation and yoga sessions on DediKate? There are new ones each week, along with stretching and breathing exercises!
Once you have identified your IBS triggers it is a good idea to continue to limit identified common irritants and identified FODMAP triggers, increase soluble fibre consumption, stay hydrated, manage stress, eat at regular intervals, carry out regular exercise and potentially use probiotics.
Let’s Sum It Up
IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder characterised by abdominal pain and issues with bowel movements. Symptoms can be reduced through diet and lifestyle choices. You should always consult your Doctor if you have IBS-like symptoms for an accurate diagnosis and work with a Dietician/ Nutritionist to identify your particular dietary triggers. The main management strategies are to avoid triggers such as certain foods and stress, eat a diet high in soluble fibre, eat in a regular pattern, stay hydrated and keep active.
Want to know more? Watch our latest DediKate Eat Great chat with Amy - Ep #42 on IBS and Digestive Issues.
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