IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or spastic colon is a very common disorder that is limited to the colon (the large intestine). It’s a long-term chronic condition that can’t be cured but managed appropriately. Unlike other related diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, IBS doesn’t increase your risk of acquiring colorectal cancer or make any changes in the bowel tissue.
As a matter of fact, there are very few people with this condition who experience severe symptoms. Some people manage their symptoms by managing their stress, changing their lifestyles and diets appropriately. However, for others, medication or counselling might prove pivotal.
Signs And Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of IBS can be different in every individual. In some cases, they might resemble other diseases. However, the most common symptoms are pain in the abdomen, cramping, feeling of bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, mucus in the stool etc.
Note that, although this is a chronic condition there are times when the symptoms might disappear completely while in some cases it might be severe.
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out any other underlying conditions. There are a few times when serious symptoms might indicate a serious underlying condition. Therefore if you notice symptoms such as rectal bleeding, pain in the abdomen that worsens during the night and dramatic weight loss, you should make an appointment with an IBS specialist.
Top 20 IBS Triggers And How To Avoid Them
By taking the necessary steps in order to prevent the symptoms of IBS from becoming worse, any sufferer can lead a healthy and productive life. With proper planning and caution, you can avoid the most common triggers that can cause flares. Even better, if you’re working with an exceptional IBS specialist, he/she can create a suitable treatment plan to prevent any flare-ups.
It’s prudent to have a list of the common IBS triggers in handy. Note that, some of the symptoms might vary depending on the type of IBS you’re actually suffering from. However, with a personal diary listing all the triggers, you can always avoid them and lead a symptom-free life. Here are the common triggers grouped into categories and how to prevent them accordingly.
A) Diet Triggers For Constipation
As mentioned above, one of the symptoms of IBS is constipation. This is mostly caused by the diet you’re currently taking. Here are the common diet triggers for IBS that every patient should be aware of.
1. Refined cereals or breads
2. Cookies, chips and other types of refined foods
3. Carbonated and fizzy drinks or beverages such as sodas, coffee, alcohol etc.
4. Dairy products like cheese.
For this category of triggers, there are a few prevention measures that can come in handy for anyone suffering from IBS.
• Increase your intake of fiber gradually each day by around 2 or 3 grams till you reach a level of about 20-35 grams each day. Some of the best sources of fiber include whole grain cereals and bread, vegetables, fruits and beans.
• Increase your consumption of foods that are rich in sorbitol moderately. Some of the best sources are prune juice and dried plums.
• Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day, most preferably 8- ounces each.
• Sprinkle ground flaxseed on your salad or vegetables to manage your symptoms.
B) Diet Triggers For Diarrhea
After constipation, diarrhea is another terrible symptom of IBS. Some of the diet triggers for this symptom include the following.
5. Excessive consumption of insoluble fiber especially that found on fruit and vegetable skins.
6. Drinks or foods that contain chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, fructose or the sugar substitute of sorbitol.
7. Foods prepared or manufactured using wheat
8. Fatty or friend foods
For prevention, you should take more foods that contain soluble fiber. This is good for the large intestine and can help prevent spasms. Some of the best sources of soluble fiber include brown rice, the flesh of fruits or vegetables, barley, dried fruits, pasta or wheat breads. Also, avoid consumption of foods with varying extreme temperatures in the same meal. For instance, very cold ice cream or extremely hot soup.
Avoid cabbage, onions and broccoli since they can cause gas and constipation, making the diarrhea worse. Always reduce your food into smaller portions. Drink around 6-8 glasses of eater every day but don’t drink the water with your meals. Rather it should be taken an hour before or after your meals.
If you’re worried about having a wheat allergy, you should definitely consult with an IBS specialty. If you have lactose intolerance, you should try a lactose free diet to carefully distinguish the symptoms from the IBS ones.
C) Stress And Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can worsen IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating or stomach pain. There are many things that can cause stress for different individuals. These include:
9. Work related stress
10. Home related stress
11. Commuting from home to work and back every day
12. Financial concerns
13. An overwhelming feeling of losing control.
To prevent any more triggers you should start practicing a healthy lifestyle. First, you should look for a balanced diet that’s suitable for IBS patients. Exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Engage yourself in more hobbies for fun. For instance, you should listen to music, take more walks, go shopping and read more books.
You should also look into behavioral therapy which allows you to calm yourself with different techniques such as hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, biofeedback or relaxation therapy. Share your issues with the people in your close circle.
Sometimes suffering from IBS can be very depressing but sharing it with other individuals might become more enlightening. Lastly, stop worrying about when your symptoms will flare up. Rather, you should live your life normally without any worries.
D) Drug Triggers
There are a few drugs that have been known to trigger IBS symptoms. They often lead to spams of the large intestine and intensify other symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation. These drug triggers include:
14. Antibiotics, especially if used after a prolonged time
15. Medicines that contain sorbitol such as cough syrup
If you’re currently under any of these medications which might trigger your IBS symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about it. He/she should be able to find alternative medications that reduce the flare-ups. Be cautious about any drugs you take and always consult your doctor before taking any new medications.
There are a few older anti-depressants that have been associated with constipation. Therefore, you should beware of taking them if you’re currently suffering from IBS.
E) Other Triggers
17. Menstruation – There are a few studies that reveal that female IBS patients are likely to have flare-ups during their periods. It’s actually a recent discovery and there might not be a lot of information on how to prevent it. However, there are a few approved ways of handling the pain or discomfort effectively.
For instance, there are a few oral contraceptives that can make periods regular but with some side effects. Also, there are some PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) medicines that can also be used for the treatment of depression.
18. Eating large portions of foods to quickly can also trigger IBS symptoms. It’s advisable to reduce the portions considerably and eat slower to prevent any flare-ups.
19. Chewing gum is also another trigger since it makes you swallow lots of air which might upset your stomach and thereby triggering the condition.
20. Eating food while driving or doing other activities can also worsen your symptoms. Therefore, when it’s time to eat, you should avoid doing any other activities that might trigger your symptoms.
Alternative Treatments For IBS
Besides the above mentioned prevention measures, there are a few alternative treatments for IBS that can work for some individuals. They include:
• Acupuncture – There are some recent research studies that have identified that acupuncture can help improve IBS symptoms considerably. There are lots of people who are skeptical about acupuncture but it’s worth a try if everything else has failed.
• Herbal Remedies – peppermint is one of the recommended herbal remedy for keeping IBS symptoms in check. Although it might provide temporary relief for any symptoms, the results from various research studies have been inconsistent.
• Hypnosis is yet another way to reduce the symptoms of IBS. With a trained hypnotherapist, you can learn how to relax your abdominal muscles and reduce the intensity of your symptoms.
• Probiotics – these are good bacteria usually found in yogurt and other supplements that can comfortably live in your intestines and prevent any IBS flare-ups.
Other Useful Remedies For IBS
As mentioned above, simple dietary or lifestyle changes can help you find relief for IBS symptoms. Here are other remedies you should consider to keep the condition at bay.
• Try out more fibrous foods. Remember, although fiber can help reduce constipation, there are chances that it might make cramping or gas worse. Therefore, rather than consuming a huge amount of fiber at once, do it gradually for the best results. It’s more prudent to consult a dietician as well as an IBS specialist for the best advice.
• With the comprehensive list of triggers mentioned above, you should always be careful about the type of food you consume. Therefore, when shopping for food, always look at the ingredients for the best results. Even better, rather than buying processed foods, you should always make fresh foods from your own kitchen.
• Avoid skipping meals and stick to a regular meal plan at all times. This will allow your intestines to regulate your bowel function. Also, eating smaller portions allows the intestines to digest and move food faster. Therefore stick to that for the best results.
• Drink plenty of liquids at all times. Always take 8 glasses of water every day and make sure it’s plain. Avoid any other fizzy or alcoholic beverages that can make the symptoms worse after stimulating your intestines.
• Get yourself into a regular exercise routine that will reduce stress and depression. This will regulate your bowel movements. If you have been inactive for some time, don’t rush right into exercising but rather exercise slowly and gradually. However, before exercising you should consult your doctor especially if you have any other underlying conditions that might hamper your exercise routine.
In conclusion, there are lots of individuals suffering from IBS in silence. They are too afraid to do anything about it. Therefore, rather than getting depressed about the condition, talk to your close friends or workmates and learn more ways to handle your flare-ups if they ever come up.