If you have chronic digestion problems, but have been reluctant to talk to your physician about it, you’re not alone. Did you know that up to 45 million Americans, and 12% of adults living in North America suffer from a condition called “Irritable Bowel Syndrome?” Although IBS is common, some people feel a sense of embarrassment for having it, so IBS if often stigmatized and misunderstood. That’s why Family HealthCare Associates is taking a moment during IBS Awareness Month to help our patients understand more about IBS, because its symptoms can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life. First, let’s start by understanding the basics, and then get to how you can treat the condition.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS) which some people call spastic colitis, or a nervous colon, is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that has various symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, gas, abdominal bloating, stomach cramps, or an urgency to go to the bathroom. Although it affects people regardless of age, race, or gender, IBS is more common among women, and often affects people under the age of 50.
IBS’s symptoms tend to change over time, even day-to-day, and can flare up unexpectedly. Until recently, experts weren’t sure what causes IBS, but many now believe that microbes present during infectious gastroenteritis may trigger symptoms. For most people, symptoms often get worse after meals. A flare-up may last for several days, but your condition will improve if you can identify what foods are causing your problems—so here are a few tips for understanding your body and managing your IBS.
- Adopt a Low FODMAP Diet: Avoid sugars the gut finds difficult to absorb, which are in fruits and vegetables such as beans, celery, onions, carrots, raisins, bananas, apricots, prunes, and Brussels sprouts
- Ramp Up Your Fiber Intake: A balanced diet high in soluble fiber (or psyllium) can help your IBS
- Lay Off Junk Food: Avoid chocolate, pretzels, bagels, soda, alcohol, gum, candy, and caffeinated products
- Limit Your Dairy Intake: Milk, cheese, and ice cream can often trigger your IBS
- Get Your Daily Probiotics: Yogurt, Kefir, and probiotic supplements contain beneficial bacteria that supports gut health. You may not feel their effects immediately, so take them over a few weeks
- Keep a Food Diary: Keep tabs of what specific foods you eat as well as their physical effects to identify what foods trigger your IBS
Want a List of Foods That Can Help with Your IBS? Add These to Your Diet
- Fruits: Blueberries, cantaloupe, grapes, oranges, pumpkin, and strawberries
- Vegetables: Baby spinach, broccoli, carrots, green beans, lettuce, and zucchini
- Protein: Beef, chicken, eggs, tofu, and turkey
- Probiotics: Yogurt, kefir, or any probiotic supplements.
- Fish: Crab, lobster, salmon, shrimp, or tuna.
- Dairy alternatives: Lactose-free products, almond, oat, or soy alternatives.
- Nuts: Peanuts, macadamias, and walnuts.
- Starches and cereals: Brown rice, quinoa, popcorn, potato, and sweet potatoes.
All of us at Family HealthCare Associates know dietary changes won’t happen overnight, but if you can identify what types of food triggers your IBS, you can avoid them, and limit your flare ups. And if you’ve been quietly suffering from IBS and want to speak to a professional, we hope you will make an appointment with one of our physicians. Don’t wait. It just may change your quality of life.