April is IBS Awareness Month. We’d like to share some information about it along with tips on how to best manage it.
About 10% to 15% of people in the United States have symptoms of IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is a diagnosis gastroenterologists use to describe a certain set of symptoms associated with digesting food. Also known as “spastic colon,” it’s a chronic condition whose cause is not well understood. It can occur after a bacterial or parasitic infection (giardiasis) of the intestines. There may also be other triggers, including stress.
Most people have mild symptoms, but severity ranges from person to person. You are said to have IBS when symptoms are present for at least 3 days a month for a period of 3 months or more.
The main symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Change in bowel habits – diarrhea (IBS-D) or constipation (IBS-C)
Pain and other symptoms will often be reduced or go away after a bowel movement. Symptoms may flare up when there is a change in the frequency of these bowel movements. People with IBS may have alternating constipation and diarrhea, or they have one or the other ongoing.
Symptoms can at times lead to loss of appetite, anxiety, depression and even avoiding places without a readily accessible restroom. While there is no cure for IBS, proper treatment and diet can help alleviate symptoms.
In some cases of IBS, lifestyle changes can help. For example, regular exercise and improved sleep habits may reduce anxiety and help relieve symptoms. Dietary changes can also be helpful; however, no specific diet can be recommended for IBS because the condition differs from one person to another. It’s recommended that IBS patients speak with their doctors about what is right for them. No matter what each person’s diet consists of, there is one truth that applies to us all: nutritious meals with more fiber, vegetables and fruits are crucial to maintaining our health.
The following changes may help relieve IBS symptoms:
- Avoiding foods and drinks that stimulate the intestines (such as caffeine, tea, or colas)
- Eating smaller meals
- Increasing fiber in the diet (this may improve constipation and diarrhea, but it can make bloating worse)
See our free Nutrition Lessons through Full Plate Living on how to incorporate more fiber into your diet.
Many suffering with IBS have been helped by a low FODMAP diet (a diet low in Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols). According to an article published by Harvard Health, one study found that 76% of IBS patients following the diet reported improvement with their symptoms. The FODMAP diet suggests that those following it should eat more of these foods: grains (such as quinoa, oats, gluten-free pasta and rice), vegetables (such as carrots, lettuce, ginger and potatoes) and protein (such as beef, chicken and eggs). These ingredients are all found in the dishes on our Made Easy Meals menu.
If you think you may have IBS, a food diary is a great tool to help you identify triggers and keep track of the foods you’re able to tolerate. It’s easy and simple – just write down what you eat, when, and how you feel afterward. This will also help when visiting your doctor.
IBS patients can also manage the impact this disorder has on their mental health with therapies such as biofeedback, cognitive behavior therapy, and brief psychotherapy. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to access our 30-Day Stress Reduction Challenge with daily tips on how to get your mental health back on track!
There are medications to treat IBS: antidiarrheals, gut antispasmodics, laxatives, nerve pain medication, antibiotics, and dietary supplements. Because medication is often a last-resort option, can be expensive and requires access to a medical professional, many people take the more natural route: they change their diet.
We understand it can be hard to make yourself food when you’re tired and not feeling well. For those days when your symptoms are bad, our Made Easy Meals service is a convenient way for you to stay nourished throughout the day. Our meals are delivered right to your doorstep and are ready to heat and eat. We’ll save you time and energy by taking care of your meals so you can get back to feeling better.