Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition that affects the lining on the colon. Symptoms of IBS can include abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. IBS can be hard to diagnose and can be even harder to treat, which often leads people diagnosed with this disease feeling misunderstood and frustrated. In the absence of concerning symptoms such has blood in the stool, IBS is diagnosed based on symptoms reported. While there are medications that can be prescribed to treat IBS, most people will see improvement with lifestyle and dietary changes.
Irritable bowel syndrome can have many different triggers depending on the person. It can also have periods of remission where no symptoms are noticed and then return later down the road. Common triggers for IBS symptoms are caffeine, chocolate, soda, dairy and greasy or fried foods. For some people just avoiding trigger foods can keep them asymptomatic, but for others more changes must be made. Fiber should be added to diets cautiously. High fiber diets could lead to more diarrhea as well as increased gas and abdominal pain. If you need to increase the fiber in your diet, start slowly and monitor your symptoms. Limiting dairy products and alcohol will also help control symptoms.
Lifestyle changes include increasing exercise and decreasing stress. Luckily, these go together. Exercising releases endorphins and helps fight off depression and relieve stress. Exercise also promotes healthy peristalsis, or how the colon contracts, which helps regulate movement. Eating at relatively the same time every day helps to regulate bowel function. Eating several small meals versus eating three large meals could also help with symptoms.
Although you may be under a doctor's care, you may find that treating your IBS is self treated through diet and lifestyle and will include some trial and error. Talk to your doctor if you are unable to manage your IBS and symptoms persist despite diet and lifestyle changes.