Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or otherwise known as spastic colon, irritable colon, and mucous colitis, it is a combination of intestinal symptoms which typically occur together. Irritable bowel syndrome is quite different from usual inflammatory bowel diseases and other related bowel conditions as its symptoms vary from one person to another and on the severity of the condition. It’s not life-threatening in nature. However, it’s a long lasting problem which can typically change the way you live your life.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
As stated above, different people experience different symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. But, some symptoms are common in all conditions. These include:
- Experiencing cramps
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Feeling bloated and gas
Episodes of constipation and diarrhea are quite common for people with irregular bowel syndrome. On the other hand, symptoms like bloating and gas typically disappear after a normal bowel movement. Additionally, symptoms of irregular bowel syndrome aren’t always persistent. They resolve, only to come back sooner than later.
What causes Irregular Bowel Syndrome?
Though there is a plethora of ways to effectively treat this problem, knowing the exact cause of irregular bowel syndrome can enhance your treatment. Possible causes of the condition include, an overly sensitive colon or immune system. Post-infectious irregular bowel syndrome is a result of presence of previous bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract.
In general, the physical processes typically involved in irregular bowel syndrome also vary from one person to another, but may consist of:
- slowed or spastic colon movement, which causes the onset of painful cramps
- abnormal serotonin levels in the colon, which affect motility and bowel movements
- mild celiac disease that causes damage to the intestines
Managing Irregular Bowel Syndrome
Most dieticians claim that irritable bowel syndrome is inherited. However, in many cases, the condition develops as a result of over sensitive nerves present in the gut. These nerves can cause severe pain and cramps along with many other symptoms like bloating, etc.
Here are 7 tips from a dietitian on how to manage irritable bowel syndrome.
- Medications can work Wonders
Consult a physician about your condition and seek assistance on how to treat the problem. Usually, people with irregular bowel syndrome and constipation (IBS-C) are recommended laxatives to ease their condition. These range from osmotic laxatives to cathartic laxatives. While the former increases water content in colon, the latter stimulates its walls. Osmotic laxatives are more effective in the long-run and hence, more recommended than its counterpart. If you have irregular bowel syndrome along with diarrhea (IBS-D), then over-the-counter medications like loperamide can easily help in controlling your symptoms.
- Try probiotics
Many pieces of research prove that a change in gut flora can trigger the onset of irregular bowel syndrome by increasing inflammation and reducing digestive mobility. Probiotics are available in yogurts, capsules, and powders, which can effectively alleviate symptoms and balance out one’s condition. The probiotics inhibit the growth of disease-causing bacteria in the body, further slowing down bowel movement and fighting inflammation.
- A High-Fibre Diet is quite Effective
No matter if you have IBS-C or IBS-D, increasing the intake of dietary fibre, especially the one present in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole-grain breads and cereals, can effectively relieve symptoms. High-fat meals, on the other hand, can cause irregular bowel syndrome by encouraging vigorous colon contractions. This, in turn, can trigger severe cramps and even cause diarrhea.
However, as stated above, different people experience different levels of severity and only one in every six irregular bowel syndrome patients showcase improvement from this diet. Many others benefit from other types of diets such as a ketogenic (low carb) diet which aims to reduce inflammation.
- Exercising Helps
Studies and research suggest that exercising for about 30 minutes a day, such as walking, gymming, playing outdoor sports, etc. can significantly aid in easing out the common symptoms of irregular bowel syndrome. It’s best to consult a dietician about the kind of exercise regime and diet plan you must follow in order to effectively treat your condition and stay healthy.
- Reduce Stress Levels
Though stress is the body’s natural way of protecting itself against damages and/or threats, it can trigger a wide variety of problems, including an irregular bowel syndrome. The immune system of the body is heavily affected by stress and hence, all problems related to stress, including irregular bowel syndrome get aggravated.
If you have irregular bowel syndrome, and lead a stressful life, it’s best to keep yourself calm, composed and stress-free in order to treat the problem. Take some time out to relax and rejuvenate yourself and keep materialistic problems at bay.
- Maintain a Food Diary
Irregular bowel syndrome has different triggers. So, keep a check on what you eat and drink. If you experience bloating, it’s best to eliminate gas-producing foods such as resistant starch (found in bread and potatoes), beans, cruciferous vegetables, and carbonated drinks from your diet.
Fructose, present in sweet fruits and vegetables, can also cause diarrhea, bloating and gas. At the same time, it is important to note that one in every ten irregular bowel syndrome patients is lactose intolerant. So, minimizing the intake of dairy products can prove to be quite beneficial. Caffeine must be avoided at all costs as it worsens diarrhea. So, limit its intake to not more than three cups a day.
- Peppermint Oil Helps
Studies and surveys have shown that peppermint oil can effectively reduce the severity of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms including bloating, abdominal cramps and spasms, intensity of bowel movement and pain while urination. Purchase enteric-coated peppermint oil, especially the one that comes with coated tablets, which slowly release the oil in the small intestine.
The Bottom Line
Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition which comes with its own set of ups and downs. The condition can worsen with increased stress-levels, hormonal fluctuations, and related illnesses. The best way to keep the condition in check is by taking necessary measures and following the above-mentioned tips from dieticians on effectively managing irritable bowel syndrome.