Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common diagnoses made by gastroenterologists. Common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. This condition affects about 20% of the population of North America.
Those most likely to suffer from IBS include women, people under the age of 50, sexual or physical abuse victims; people with depression, anxiety, or a history of bacterial infection of the intestinal tract.
Though the exact cause of IBS is unclear, it may be caused due to problems with the nerves and muscles in your digestive tract, overgrowth of bacteria in the intestinal tract, change in the type of bacteria in the intestinal tract, difficulty to digest specific foods or some type of inflammatory condition.
Symptoms of IBS may occur daily or from time to time and can significantly affect the quality of life. Flare-ups of IBS may be triggered by certain types of food, caffeine, carbonated drinks, stress, or artificial sugars.
Management of IBS involves trying different treatment strategies such as:
- Dietary changes: Common food triggers include insoluble fiber in certain fruits and vegetables as well as the lactose in dairy products. It is best to keep a food diary to identify which specific foods trigger your IBS symptoms and try to avoid them.
- Probiotics: These are tablets or capsules that contain good bacteria. Probiotics help to keep your gut healthy and can improve IBS symptoms
- Stress management: Finding ways to reduce stress levels such as counseling, biofeedback, and relaxation exercises may also be helpful.
Settling on the right strategy to manage your IBS symptoms may take time and some experimentation, but it is well worth the effort in terms of freedom from worry and improved quality of life.