Irritable bowel syndrome is a dysfunction in the digestive system that largely affects the large intestine or the colon. This is the part of the system that takes care of the bowel movements in the body including the storage and the excretion of solid waste materials. In irritable bowel syndrome, the large intestine becomes very sensitive. As to what’s the reason behind the sensitiveness of the large intestine, scientists and medical experts still cannot determine why. Research are still being made up until now to ascertain the true cause of irritable bowel syndrome.
Because of the sensitivity of the large intestine, specifically the lining, minor changes in the body system which is often brought on by stress and changes in the chemical make-up that enter the chambers result in reactions that affect the body’s bowel movements.
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome may either suffer from diarrhea, characterized by a loose and watery stool or from constipation characterized by hard stool and infrequent defecation. This is a problem that is often mistaken as ordinary food poisoning or even indigestion.
Unfortunately, since there is no single known cause of irritable bowel syndrome, there is also no diagnostic test that can confirm the disorder. The most that doctors do is to conduct tests that would eliminate other possibilities before continuing with the diagnosis.
One thing thought that separates irritable bowel syndrome from other diseases is the presence of abdominal pain that can last for a period of 12 months. Of course, the pain would not be there every day but a period of a year with abdominal pain is one of the main criteria for a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome.
Because it is a syndrome, diagnosis will not depend on just one symptom. There are criteria that must be met before a conclusive diagnosis can be reached. The Rome II Diagnostic Criteria System is often used to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. This system is also used in other gastrointestinal problems in the body and has already been established in the medical field as solid and sound criteria for diagnosis.
There is actually no cure for irritable bowel syndrome. The only thing that your doctor can do is to help relieve the pain. Treatment often involves the taking in of medications that will help ease constipation and regulate the bowel system, change in the diet plans and sometimes stress relief through psychotherapy.
Patients are also asked to avoid certain foods that are associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Food items that should be avoided include foods that are rich in oil and fats such as French fries, alcoholic drinks, chocolate, milk and milk products such as ice cream and cheese and even coffee.
The Irritable bowel syndrome diet sets eating guidelines for people suffering from the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Adherence to the irritable bowel syndrome diet is crucial because this will help prevent the symptoms of this illness. However, there are instances when people fail to follow this diet strictly. There are certain instances when some people merely forget that a certain food can be bad for them.
There are seven specific areas in which people with irritable bowel syndrome fail to follow their diets:
1) Coffee – Coffee has become the heart of America today. No, a better term would be coffee has become the lifeblood of America. This is the reason why companies like Starbucks flourish in the United States. There’s no denying how much people today depend on coffee to fuel them for the day ahead.
However, did you know that coffee is a big “no-no” in the irritable bowel syndrome diet? This is not merely due to the caffeine, since decaffeinated coffee should also be avoided in the irritable bowel syndrome diet. Coffee should be avoided because there is an enzyme found in it that can trigger the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It is also an acidic drink which would cause your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms to worsen.
2) Yogurt with cow’s milk – Since yogurt is promoted as being healthy for the digestive system, most people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome forget to exclude it from their diet. What people need to realize is that all dairy products must be left out of the irritable bowel syndrome diet. This is because the proteins whey and casein which are found inside yogurt and other dairy products are very difficult to digest. This means that eating dairy products are likely to trigger the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Other substitutes include almond or coconut yogurt that doesn’t contain dairy.
3) Alcohol – Just as people are inclined to drink coffee in the morning, they are also inclined to consume alcohol in the evening. People say that alcohol helps in relaxation, but some are puzzled by this statement. This is because people also reason that they drink coffee to help them become alert. Does this mean that people need help in everything that they do? But that’s a question for another day.
Alcohol should be excluded from irritable bowel syndrome because it irritates your digestive tract, triggering symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
4) Vitamins – Some people think that they should take vitamins in order to avoid the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The truth is, however, different vitamins affect the body in different ways. Some vitamins could soothe the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and some could aggravate it. The only way to know for sure is to go consult your physician for some advice on which vitamins to include in your irritable bowel syndrome diet. A good probiotic is essential for IBS sufferers. Also be sure that most of your vitamins are not synthetic but rather a natural sources coming from whole foods.
5) Avoiding certain fruits and vegetables – People who know that these contain insoluble fiber avoid fruits and vegetables because they think that these will trigger the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.However, you should realize that avoiding these foods could invite diseases into your body. It is true that foods containing insoluble fiber can trigger your symptoms, but eating these foods with a quantity of soluble fiber will be the best thing you can do. Be sure to make a list of fruits and vegetables that cause unusual symptoms. It is also a must to have your vegetable steamed or fully cooked.
6) Soluble fiber – Some people neglect to take soluble fiber supplements. They might think that these supplements will aggravate their symptoms simply because soluble fiber is mainly advertised as a laxative. However, people should know that soluble fiber is a stabilizer, and should be included in the irritable bowel syndrome diet to help you minimize the symptoms. Other food sources containing fiber which are recommended for IBS symptoms include: If you suffer from diarrhea (apples, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, peas). If you suffer with constipation (zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens).
7) Soda – Carbonated drinks should not be included in your irritable bowel syndrome diet. These are not included in the advice to drink plenty of water. This is because of the fact that carbonated drinks will definitely trigger your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. If you like carbonated drinks for the bubble feel in your mouth then a great natural substitute is mineral spring water that contains fruit flavors such as: lemon, watermelon, strawberry and blueberry.
Some of the main triggers that may cause symptoms of IBS include:
1. Food: The role of allergies or intolerance to certain foods is still under research. food allergies rarely cause IBS however people who suffer with IBS their symptoms become worse with consuming certain beverages, wheat, dairy products, carbonated drinks, cabbage, beans and citrus fruits.
2. Hormones: Unfortunately women are twice as likely to have IBS due to hormonal changes in their bodies. Some of these symptoms can be related to a woman’s menstrual cycle or menopause.
3. Stress: Individuals that suffer with IBS are easily triggered by stressful situations in life. Symptoms of IBS are often triggered or aggravated when a stressful event is about to occur. It’s also important to recognize when stressful situations or events before symptoms arise in order to combat them right away.
Main causes of may include: Inflammation of the intestines, infections, changes in the gut microbiome, nervous system abnormalities which may cause pain, diarrhea or constipation and muscle contractions in the intestines.
Finding ways to deal with stress and other triggers related to irritable bowel syndrome includes: getting nutritional counseling to handle stress around nutrition. Finding relaxing exercises can help release the tension around the muscles in the colon, neck and other body parts which can cause neurological triggers related to IBS symptoms. Mindful techniques can help IBS sufferers by shifting the stressful events with gaining the ability to be fully present in the moment rather than being overwhelmed with what’s going on in the world around them.
There are millions of individuals suffering with IBS around the world. Many of them are women, including all different age ranges. Most researchers and doctors still aren’t sure as to the reason why IBS occurs. However, finding alternative ways to cope with IBS can be life changing.
Camille McClellan, MD, DNM, MBS
McClellan Natural Health, Wellness & Nutrition
Free Naturopathic/Homeopathic Consults Available