If you are like the one if five Americans who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you know every bathroom along your well-traveled routes, and pretty much have given up on comfort food.
IBS – also known as spastic colon or spastic bowel – is a chronic disorder that affects the muscle contractions of the bowel but is not characterized by intestinal inflammation, ulcers or bowel damage. That’s because IBS is not a disease – patients with IBS show no clinical signs of disease and often have normal test results; it’s just that their digestive symptoms don’t function properly. However, that’s a moot point for anyone who suffers from IBS symptoms such as abdominal discomfort ranging from cramps and bloating to diarrhea and constipation.
Your digestive system is made up of complex parts, and the stomach is often times very sensitive. Therefore, what we put into our system is important. A healthy diet and good nutrition is what our body thrives on to function optimally. Our gut health depends on how we treat our bodies, one being IBS. Potential causes of IBS may include bacteria, neurotransmission issues between digestive tract and brain, food sensitivities, stress, and hormones.
For people with gastrointestinal (GI) problems, IBS is sometimes called a “diagnosis of exclusion,” where the doctor rules out other conditions before diagnosing IBS. Treatment may include certain medications such as intestinal antispasmodics like hyoscyamine (Levsin) or dicyclomine (Bentyl). Surgery is never prescribed for IBS as there is no physical damage to correct. Instead, treatments focus on reducing the symptoms themselves. Here are ten diet tips for those who may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Avoid eating so much in one sitting. Don’t let your eyes become bigger than your stomach. Smaller, more frequent meals make it easier for your digestive system to work slow and steady as it should, without overload.
- Eat slow and take your time, there is no race. Imagine putting too many ingredients into your blender. It will get clogged. The same is true with your digestive system. Eating slowly, with deliberate chewing and smaller bites, will keep that digestive motor running evenly and not allow for a jam.
- Watch out for high-fiber foods. Eating foods that are high in fiber is great for you, but if you have IBS, you already might be experiencing too many bowel movements and don’t need any extra help. Too much fiber, especially the insoluble kind you get in the skin of fruits and vegetables, is probably not a good route to go if you have IBS.
- Avoid fatty foods. Good fat, bad fat. Your body loves good fat like avocados and lean meats, but not gristle or fatty foods, which can be harder to digest. Stick to lean.
- Keep a log of what you eat. Write down everything you eat – how much and when, as well as your reactions (heartburn, diarrhea, cramping). After a while, you might begin to see patterns of what to avoid (and when to avoid it).
- Consider going lactose-free. You may or may not be lactose intolerant, but for many people suffering from IBS, lactose products are pretty reliable for wreaking havoc on the tummy. Consider going lactose-free, or at least cutting back so when you do have products that contain lactose, you can know for sure if there is a problem.
- Limit drinking alcohol, soda, and acidic drinks. Contrary to popular belief (and lots of advertising) our bodies can probably do a lot better without alcohol, sugary soda, and acidic drinks. Sugar and acid invite bacteria which can cause tummy problems. And they really are wasted calories as well.
- Don’t hold it in. If you don’t already, know your body and plan your day around it. If you have long commutes, know where the bathrooms are en route. Secure the back of the auditorium or plane to be close to the bathroom, and if you enjoy running or long bike rides, come to terms that you and nature may become very intimate. Just remember, don’t hold anything in – your body is doing the best it can so don’t go against Mother Nature.
- Have a regular meal pattern. As mentioned, consider having a number of smaller, healthier meals throughout the day, and try to do this at set times. This way you won’t be asking too much of your digestive system, and between eating healthy foods, eliminating the bad stuff, letting it all go and keeping a journal to analyze patterns and outcomes, you should be able to vector in on problem foods and triggers.
- Avoid refined flour: stick with whole grains and when having cereal, bread, and pasta.
If you have IBS, don’t stress. IBS happens. In fact, try not to stress about anything. Although it’s easier said than done, stress really does impact our digestive system and it’s not worth having a flare up only because something really is out of your control.
For more information about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), schedule an appointment with one of our physicians by calling US Digestive Health at (717) 245-2228.