Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the number one gastrointestinal complaint in the United States and is a disorder of the large intestine or colon. It is characterized by such symptoms as cramping, bloating, gas, mild to severe abdominal distress, and changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation.
IBS usually occurs after an infection, but it remains a mystery as to what exactly causes the problem. One theory is that there is a problem between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, although sometimes there can be a yeast or candida overgrowth that produce toxins, creates inflammation, and results in IBS. Additionally, people with IBS are more likely to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), psychological problems, headaches and backaches, or fibromyalgia (FM).
IBS is somewhat difficult to diagnose, and there are several other diseases that are similar to it, so, a number of diseases have to be excluded before IBS can be determined. IBS is usually not life threatening, but an interesting side note is that Celiac Disease is often misdiagnosed as IBS. Additionally, IBS seems to be triggered by certain foods. These foods include:
- Carbonated Drinks
- Dairy Products
- Fatty Foods
- Fructose and Fructose Corn Syrup
- Non-nutritive Sweeteners, (those found in sugar-free foods and gum)
Besides avoiding the above foods, there are several other helpful suggestions for IBS sufferers. These include:
- Keep a food diary. In it note all foods eaten and any foods that cause distress, so you can learn what to avoid.
- Eat a fiber-rich diet, particularly soluble fiber. Soluble fiber binds with fatty acids and passes through the body intact. Soluble fiber also soothes and regulates the digestive tract and stabilizes the colon’s contractions, which then prevents and relieves diarrhea or constipation related to IBS. If you are interested in learning more about soluble fiber foods read Fiber is More Than a Hill of Beans. Keep in mind, some people experience gas and bloating when they undertake a fiber-rich diet. This usually decreases as the body gets used to the new diet, but if it causes too much of a problem, digestive enzymes can be purchased to reduce gas and bloating.
- Avoid additives used in prepared, packaged, and commercial foods. This means eating more wholesome foods made from scratch, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eliminate stress. Stress can be reduced through meditation, massage, relaxation techniques, acupuncture, or hypnotherapy.
There are also several natural products that can be purchased over-the-counter that may relieve or help with IBS symptoms. They are
- Evening Primrose Oil. This oil is supposedly helpful for women who experiencing worsening IBS symptoms during menstruation; however, there can be side effects such as headaches, upset stomachs, and rashes, so it should be taken with food.
- Marshmallow Root. This soothes inflamed tissues and is sold in capsules or tinctures. Follow package directions.
- Heather’s Tummy Tamers ~ Peppermint Oil Capsules. Peppermint has anti-spasmodic action, calms the smooth muscles of the stomach and intestines, and relieves indigestion, abdominal cramps, and pain. You also want to use enteric-coated capsules, and it should not be used for any extended period.
- Probiotic Supplements. A study conducted by the University College Cork demonstrated that bifidobacterium infantis 35624 taken daily for eight weeks significantly reduced IBS symptoms. It seems 35624 counteracts candida microorganisms that lead to yeast overgrowth. Lactobacillus acidophilis has also been used, and both strains offer the advantage of no side effects because they’re organisms.
- Tumeric. In one study, people who took tumeric—300 mg, three times a day—reduced their IBS symptoms by over 50 percent. It helps because it reduces inflammation and muscle contractions in the bowels. New Chapter Turmericforce are softgels, and they’re the world’s first and only full-spectrum turmeric extract. In addition, they’re gluten-free.
To learn more about IBS, there is a great book written by a Canadian doctor and naturopathy, Carolyn Dean, and L. Christine Wheeler, M.A. The book IBS For Dummies offers information on the latest tests, healthy nutrition guidelines, diet and exercise plans, and the newest medicines and therapies. Plus, the authors help ensure you get an accurate diagnosis and guide you on how to find the right doctor. In addition, to that book there is also a book by Patsy Westcott, Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Recipes and Advice to Control Symptoms, and if you want further support or assistance, the IBS self help and support group offers it.