Struggling With IBS? Here’s What You Need to Know
Discover the causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and learn how you can manage your symptoms effectively.
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a disorder most commonly found in people who are under 50, but it can affect people of all ages. It is also said that about 13-20% of all Canadians struggle with IBS.
In this post, we’ll go over what IBS is, what causes it, common symptoms, as well as diet and lifestyle changes you can make to manage your IBS.
Let’s get started.
What is IBS?
IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders around the world and affects roughly 5-7.5 million Canadians. It is more commonly found in women and can develop and resolve at any point in your life.
IBS is commonly broken down into three subgroups: IBS-D (fast digestion causing diarrhea), IBS-C (slow digestion causing constipation) and IBS-M (mixed constipation and diarrhea).
What Causes IBS?
Researchers haven’t found a specific cause for IBS, however, they have some theories on what may trigger it.
Some of these triggers are:
- An intestinal infection (ie. traveller’s diarrhea)
- Physical and/or emotional stress
- Dietary allergies (ie. gluten)
- Hormone irregularities
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Inconsistent diet or eating schedule
Keep in mind that these causes are not the same for everyone across the board. What may cause a bout of IBS for you, may not be the same for the next person. It can be helpful to keep a food diary to note any reactions you have to problematic foods.
What are IBS Symptoms?
IBS symptoms, much like the causes, are unique to each person. You may be experiencing IBS if you have some of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Relief after passing gas or stool
Wondering what to do if you’re experiencing IBS symptoms? Since there are not any tell-all symptoms for IBS, there aren’t any diagnostic tests that can be performed to give you a definitive answer. However, if you keep note of your symptoms, you can speak to one of our pharmacists about over-the-counter remedies or any questions you may have about your prescriptions.
What Should You Eat When You Have IBS?
IBS can be caused by certain foods and/or an inconsistent diet or eating schedule. Therefore, eating well-balanced, reasonably sized meals at consistent times throughout the day can help.
As we said before, keeping a dietary journal can help you eliminate certain foods that may be causing you to experience IBS symptoms.
There are also some foods that you can add to your diet to improve digestion.
Fibre can help with both constipation and diarrhea, depending on the type of fibre. Soluble fibre is found in fruits, beans, peas, and seeds and can assist with symptoms of diarrhea. Adding foods with insoluble fibre like whole wheat and vegetables to your diet can aid with constipation as they move more quickly through your digestive system.
Avoiding foods that commonly cause digestive issues, like greasy foods that are high in dietary fats and foods with MSG, can help manage your IBS symptoms. You may find that consuming alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or a lot of liquid during your meals causes you to have diarrhea.
One specific IBS diet is called the Low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet. Your body may not be able to properly digest certain foods, causing bacteria to ferment them and produce gas as they travel through your digestive tract. Following the Low FODMAP diet can decrease digestive issues caused by this fermentation. You can find a full list of low FODMAP foods here.
Consuming probiotics can also be an effective treatment for IBS as they encourage a healthy gut microbiome. Although you can add probiotics to your diet through foods like yogurt, it may not be enough to make a difference. Talk to one of our pharmacists to see if a probiotic supplement can help manage your gut health.
Lifestyle Changes For IBS
Your diet isn’t the only factor that may be causing you to experience IBS. Stress, depression and anxiety are some of the emotions that can cause IBS to flare up.
It is important to manage your stress levels, get enough good quality sleep and partake in regular exercise to live a healthy life and relieve IBS.
You can always ask one of our knowledgeable pharmacists about additional ways to manage your IBS symptoms.
To sum it up, IBS is a disorder that causes digestional issues and is so common that the odds are you know at least one person who has it. IBS can be the reason for your abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and other digestion issues. Although researchers don’t know the definitive cause of IBS, there are effective methods that can help.
Speak with one of our pharmacists to learn how you can combat your IBS symptoms today.