Do you remember the last time you spent a special evening celebrating over dinner? You probably ordered something new and delicious from the menu and even added dessert. But for people struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, what starts as a pleasant meal quickly reduces into a nightmare. Without warning, sufferers experience nausea, cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and other forms of digestive discomfort. With one bite, a lovely evening is ruined.
The Mayo Clinic reports 1 in 5 American adults show signs of irritable bowel syndrome, but fewer than 1 in 5 who have symptoms seek medical help. The report notes, “Yet it’s important to see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or if you have any other signs or symptoms of IBS because these may indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer.”
There is no known specific cause for IBS, but the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that people who suffer from IBS have a colon that is more sensitive and reactive to certain foods and stress. The goods news is that IBS will not create permanent damage to the intestines, nor will it cause other gastrointestinal diseases.
There is no cure for IBS, but there are ways to reduce the onset of symptoms. Here are four treatments that may provide some relief.
For people anxious about the next bathroom blowout, asking them to relax is asking a lot. But prolonged stress and anxiety exacerbate the problem. “That’s because the colon is in part controlled by the nervous system, which responds to stress,” according to the ADAA. “Evidence also suggests that the immune system, also responding to stress, plays a role.”
If you are a nervous eater, slow down and be conscious of the food you are eating. Turn your attention to other methods of combat stress and anxiety, such as exercise, hobbies, reading or meditation.
“At times, some of our newer residents were a little anxious about the transition. In response, our staff was quick to offer support and introduce new residents to others or get them involved in activities that may help the change go more smoothly.” Chris Bosworth, executive director for Emerald Hills Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing.
2. Keep a food diary.
By tracking the types of foods you eat and the time you eat them, you can often pinpoint the types of foods that trigger IBS. In some cases, people may discover they are lactose intolerant, or they can’t process gluten. Recording your daily diet is a valuable resource in identifying factors that can lead to IBS symptoms.
3. Increase fiber in your diet.
Here’s a little secret: Most Americans don’t get enough fiber in their diet. Most experts agree adults should consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. According to experts, most people only get approximately 5 to 14 grams of fiber per day. That’s unfortunate since many adults have found success in treating IBS by adding more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to their diet.
“Fiber adds bulk to your stools, which helps aid in movement. Fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are nutritious and help prevent constipation. However, if you experience bloating from increased fiber intake, try focusing solely on soluble fiber found in fruits and vegetables instead of grains,” wrote Healthline contributor Kirsteen Moore.
There is simply no other way around it. The human body was meant to move. Daily exercise generates a host of healthful benefits, and controlling IBS is no exception.
“For IBS patients who experience frequent constipation, exercise offers an added benefit,” wrote everydayhealth.com contributor Diana Rodriquez. “In addition to improving your overall fitness level and reducing the stress in your life, exercise has been shown to help keep your digestive system working properly and may even decrease the occurrence of constipation.”
By eliminating stress, tracking the foods you eat, adding fruits and vegetables to your diet, and exercising daily, irritable bowel syndrome sufferers don’t have to be sequestered to the nearest bathroom. Don’t let IBS cramp your style. Instead, live the life you deserve.
This article originally published in the Daily Herald. It has been reprinted with permission.