Dealing with gas, constipation, diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort is never fun, but when it becomes consistent and starts affecting your quality of life, it may be more than just a normal upset stomach. You may have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Here are some signs and symptoms of IBS and some ways to cope with it.
What Is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome is viewed as a functional GI disorder because the digestive system typically appears normal in routine testing. Common symptoms are pain in the abdomen related to your bowel movements and changes in your bowel movements, including diarrhea or constipation (or both). Other symptoms may include bloating, the feeling that you haven’t finished a bowel movement, and whitish mucus in your stool.
What Causes IBS?
There is not one single factor that causes IBS. However, doctors and researchers believe that IBS may be caused by one or more of the following:
- Abnormalities in gut motility
- An over or underactive functioning immune system
- The central nervous system interprets pain signals as coming from the gut
- A minor increase in bowel inflammation
- Changes in the bacteria of the gut
Other causes that can trigger IBS to develop are food poisoning or bowel infection. Some research also shows it may be hereditary.
Living With IBS
Having to cope with the pain and the way your body digests different foods can be difficult on a daily basis, especially if you have recently developed IBS or symptoms have worsened. Unfortunately, because there is no one cause of IBS, there is no single “cure” for it, either. However, there are steps you can take to try to lower the chances of suffering from the symptoms, including:
Consume More Fiber
Because IBS can cause constipation, ensuring that you have plenty of fiber in your diet can help. Soluble fiber such as beans, oats, and fruits is considered the best form of fiber for constipation due to IBS. A little fiber goes a long way; having too much fiber can cause bloating and gas. Fiber can also be taken in supplemental form with over-the-counter brands such as Metamucil or Citrucel.
Being active is always good for you. A 2018 study showed that regular exercise had significant benefits for IBS patients. There’s no need to overexert yourself. Even 30 minutes per day of low-to-moderate exercise can help.
Low FODMAP Diet
Some research suggests a low FODMAP diet can help reduce symptoms of IBS. The five FODMAP groups are the following:
- Fructans: Wheat, rye, onion, broccoli, and garlic
- Galacto-oligosaccharides: Chickpeas, lentils, soy products, and kidney beans
- Lactose: Cow’s milk, ice cream, dairy yogurts, and cottage cheese
- Excess fructose: Honey and fruits such as apples, mangos, pears, and watermelon
- Polyols: Nectarines, peaches, plums, cauliflower, and mushrooms
Research suggests that FODMAP foods can increase water in the small intestine, contributing to diarrhea caused by IBS.
You can also consult with your doctor about IBS medications. Because there is no concrete knowledge on what causes IBS, medicine cannot cure it, but it may relieve symptoms and prevent discomfort.