Irritable bowel syndrome (also known as IBS for short) is far from a cake walk for those that deal with it. However, itâ€™s a more common condition than you might otherwise think, affecting more than 20% of all people. That means one out of every five people you meet is struggling with the same condition you are, making you far from alone! Like you, they find themselves planning out their entire day and every single social outing around the location of the bathrooms. They live in constant fear of having an attack at the most embarrassing possible time.
There is currently no known cure for irritable bowel syndrome, so the only way to make life livable is to learn how to understand and manage the condition. If youâ€™ve been newly diagnosed, it may be hard to imagine ever reaching a day when you feel you have control over your body again, but it is possible with a little know-how and a few wise choices.
What is irritable bowel syndrome and what causes it?
Irritable bowel syndrome is one of those conditions that can vary greatly in how it manifests from person to person. That said, it doesnâ€™t have any one cause or any one set of symptoms that everyone experiences across the board. IBS occurs when the nervous signals from your brain to your bowels malfunction, causing the muscles that coordinate bowel function not to work as they should. Some people experience IBS with constipation while others wind up experiencing frequent severe diarrhea without warning. Still more people have bowels that fluctuate between the two extremes. Bloating, excessive gas, and abdominal distension are all common symptoms of the condition as well.
For many people, irritable bowel syndrome is something they inherit via their genetic make-up. Others develop the condition later on in life because of high stress levels, an illness like the flu that affects their bowel function, or hormonal changes attached to life events like menopause. Still more people wind up with IBS because of food allergies and dietary intolerances that were either preexisting or developed later on in life.
Managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome Through Diet
As is the case with any condition that affects the functioning of your digestive system, one of the most important factors in managing irritable bowel syndrome lies in getting tight control over your diet. Most people these days really arenâ€™t eating healthfully enough. Most of their meals consist of processed foods that are high in fat and fillers, but low in actually nutritional value or dietary fiber.
You can cut down on the frequency of your irritable bowel syndrome attacks by swapping the greasy foods and empty calories for wholesome, natural foods. A good rule of thumb to remember is the more natural a given food is, the better it is for you. Ditch the processed white flour products (a major trigger for IBS sufferers) and start eating whole grains instead. Also make sure youâ€™re eating the doctor-recommended five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day. Foods like these are high in natural dietary fiber, so they help keep your system healthy and your irritable bowel syndrome flare-ups at bay.
Itâ€™s also important that you stay hydrated. Irritable bowel syndrome sufferers should be drinking as close to eight glasses of water a day as possible. Keep coffee and alcohol consumption to a minimum. Not only can these contribute to problems with dehydration, but they contain chemicals and compounds that will aggravate irritable bowel syndrome more often than not.
Seeking Medical Assistance for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
At some point, itâ€™s always good to sit down with your doctor or nutritionist and discuss a strategy for managing irritable bowel syndrome. He will know your body and your medical history almost as well as you will, so run ideas about diet and lifestyle by him and see if he has any additional input. You might also ask if he thinks probiotics or other nutritional supplements for the digestive system would be of help in treating and managing your IBS, as many sufferers find them to be beneficial.
Living with irritable bowel syndrome is never going to be an absolute picnic. However, it quickly becomes a lot easier when you adapt your lifestyle and dietary choices accordingly. Ask your doctor about your options today!