This disorder can range from a mild annoyance to a life-changing problem. For many people, it is a major cause for missing work or school. One in five people has experienced irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as spastic colon. It is the most common gastrointestinal complaint, and is especially common among women.
The symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, cramping, intestinal gas, painful bowel movements and diarrhea, constipation, or both.
The symptoms may be the result of a variety of factors, including:
*medication (particularly antibiotics)
*an imbalance of intestinal flora
*a large meal
*changes in reproductive hormones
In addition, researchers believe that those with IBS may have a colon that is more reactive than normal.
Food allergies and IBS
Food seems to be a major factor for most people with IBS. The most common food allergens that can cause symptoms are wheat, corn, dairy products, coffee, tea, citrus fruits, and chocolate, also, alcohol, fried fatty foods, and spicy foods. Some people's bodies are intolerant of certain sugars, and many people with IBS have undiagnosed lactose intolerance.
If you have IBS, pay attention to which foods seem to trigger your symptoms. You might want to keep a food diary to track this. You can try an elimination diet. Remove all suspected food allergens from your diet for two weeks. Then every three days reintroduce one food and note any reactions.
Increasing your dietary fiber by 15 to 20 grams per day will help. Eat more wheat bran, oatmeal, oat bran, rye cereals and fresh fruit and vegetables. Also figs, dried apricots and prunes can be used for a fiber-filled snack. If you decide on a fiber supplement, eight to ten teaspoons of unprocessed wheat bran once a day or one teaspoon of psyllium twice a day will help. Remember to be sure to drink lots of liquids with these supplements. At least eight glasses of water a day will help the fiber move through your system.
Stress and IBS
Stress often triggers IBS symptoms, so look for ways to better manage the stress in your life. It helps to get regular exercise and to keep involved in some kind of hobbies. You can also try meditation, prayer, biofeedback, or self-hypnosis. A National Institutes of Health panel determined in 1995 that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for IBS. One study found that people with IBS had decreased symptoms after 12 weeks of self-hypnotherapy sessions using audiotapes that included visualization and relaxation instruction.
Herbs that can help relieve IBS. Here are some of the most common:
Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and reduces gas. The easiest and most effective dose is to drink a cup of chamomile tea after meals. Chamomile is considered very safe.
Ginger relieves gas pain and enhances healthy intestinal activity. Ginger can also be taken in tea after meals. Don't use ginger if you have gallstones or are pregnant. Talk with your doctor first if you are taking heart or diabetes medication.
Peppermint oil serves as a muscle relaxant. It can cause heartburn so choose enteric-coated capsules. A recommended dose is one to two capsules after a meal. Do not use if pregnant or in high doses, and do not give to young children.
Psyllium seed fiber reduces constipation. Follow the dosage recommendations given on the package insert. Be sure to take psyllium seed fiber with plenty of water and not at the same time as any other medications.
Valerian relieves gas, relaxes muscles, and soothes pain. Do not use it if you're pregnant. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking valerian because it can interact with many herbs and medications.
To avoid dehydration that can accompany diarrhea and to improve constipation, make it a habit to drink a lot of water and other clear fluids.
Although IBS is common and manageable, be sure to visit your physician to verify that your symptoms are related to IBS and not another condition.
This information is for informational purpose only and is not intended to replace the care or advice of a physician.