Irritable bowel syndrome1 (IBS) is a group of symptoms that occur together, including repeated pain in your abdomen and changes in your bowel movements, which may be diarrhea, constipation, or both. With IBS, you have these symptoms without any visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract. Jay Harold’s Post,” 3 Dietary Changes to Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” may help reduce symptoms such as whitish mucus in your stool and bloating.
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. Functional GI disorders, which doctors now call disorders of gut-brain interactions, are related to problems with how your brain and your gut work together. These problems can cause your gut to be more sensitive and change how the muscles in your bowel contract. If your gut is more sensitive, you may feel more abdominal pain and bloating. Changes in how the muscles in your bowel contract lead to diarrhea, constipation, or both.
Does IBS have another name?
In the past, doctors called IBS colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, nervous colon, and spastic bowel.
Are there different types of IBS?
Three types of IBS are based on different patterns of changes in your bowel movements or abnormal bowel movements. Sometimes, it is important for your doctor to know which type of IBS you have. Some medicines work only for some types of IBS or make other types worse. Your doctor might diagnose IBS even if your bowel movement pattern does not fit one particular type.
Many people with IBS have normal bowel movements on some days and abnormal bowel movements on other days.
IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
With IBS-C, on days when you have at least one abnormal bowel movement
- more than a quarter of your stools are hard or lumpy and
- less than a quarter of your stools are loose or watery
IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
In IBS-D, on days when you have at least one abnormal bowel movement
- more than a quarter of your stools are loose or watery and
- less than a quarter of your stools are hard or lumpy
IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M)
In IBS-M, on days when you have at least one abnormal bowel movement
- more than a quarter of your stools are hard or lumpy and
- more than a quarter of your stools are loose or watery
How common is IBS?
Studies suggest that about 12 percent of people in the United States have IBS.2
Who is more likely to develop IBS?
Women are up to two times more likely than men to develop IBS. People younger than age 50 are more likely to develop IBS than people older than age 50.
Factors that can increase your chance of having IBS include:
- having a family member with IBS
- a history of stressful or difficult life events, such as abuse, in childhood
- having a severe infection in your digestive tract
What other health problems do people with IBS have?
People with IBS often have other health problems, including1
- Certain conditions that involve chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic pelvic pain.
- Certain digestive diseases, such as dyspepsia and gastroesophageal reflux disease
- certain mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression , and somatic symptom disorder.
How can my diet help treat the symptoms of IBS3
Your doctor may recommend changes in your diet to help treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Your doctor may suggest that you
- eat more fiber
- avoid gluten
- follow a special diet called the low FODMAP diet
Different changes may help different people with IBS. You may need to change what you eat for several weeks to see if your symptoms improve. Your doctor may also recommend talking with a dietitian.
Eat more fiber
Fiber may improve constipation in IBS because it makes stool soft and easier to pass. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans4 recommends that adults should get 22 to 34 grams of fiber a day.
Two types of fiber are
- soluble fiber, which is found in beans, fruit, and oat products
- insoluble fiber, which is found in whole-grain products and vegetables
Research suggests that soluble fiber is more helpful in relieving IBS symptoms.
To help your body get used to more fiber, add foods with fiber to your diet a little at a time. Too much fiber at once can cause gas, which can trigger IBS symptoms. Adding fiber to your diet slowly, by 2 to 3 grams a day, may help prevent gas and bloating.
Your doctor may recommend avoiding foods that contain gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—to see if your IBS symptoms improve. Foods that contain gluten include most cereal, grains, and pasta, and many processed foods. Some people with IBS have more symptoms after eating gluten, even though they do not have celiac disease5 .
Low FODMAP diet
Your doctor may recommend that you try a special diet—called the low FODMAP diet—to reduce or avoid certain foods that contain carbohydrates that are hard to digest. These carbohydrates are called FODMAPs.
Examples of foods that contain FODMAPs include
- fruits such as apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, mango, nectarines, pears, plums, and watermelon, or juice containing any of these fruits.
- canned fruit in natural fruit juice, or large amounts of fruit juice or dried fruit
- vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic and garlic salts, lentils, mushrooms, onions, and sugar snap or snow peas
- dairy products such as milk, milk products, soft cheeses, yogurt, custard, and ice cream
- wheat and rye products
- honey and foods with high-fructose corn syrup
- products, including candy and gum, with sweeteners ending in “–ol,” such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and maltitol.
Your doctor may suggest that you try the low FODMAP diet for a few weeks to see if it helps with your symptoms. If your symptoms improve, your doctor may recommend slowly adding foods that contain FODMAPs back into your diet. You may be able to eat some foods with FODMAPs without having IBS symptoms.
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