Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), otherwise known as spastic colon, is a digestive condition with no clear cause, but dietary, psychological and genetic factors have all been implicated.
IBS is usually characterized by various symptoms including:
IBS is usually diagnosed after other disease is excluded
IBS is often the diagnosis given when other possible contributing conditions (e.g. colon cancer and Crohn’s disease) have been excluded. Therefore it is important if you have any of these symptoms to first check with your doctor that it isn’t anything more serious.
There are various dietary changes you can make if you feel you have IBS
-Avoid refined starches – white bread, cakes, biscuits and mashed potato can all make problems such as bloating and constipation worse. Rather choose higher fibre, less refined starches such as seed bread, jacket potatoes, oats and bran flakes.
-Drink enough water – water is essential for proper digestion. Therefore not drinking enough can exacerbate constipation and bloating.
-Avoid fatty foods – a high fat intake can exacerbate diarrhoea.
-Avoid artificial sweeteners and carbonated drinks – these can both make bloating worse, and sweeteners can also cause diarrhoea.
-Take probiotics – these are “good bacteria,” which are found naturally in the gut and help the body digest food. However, their levels may be reduced by stress, infection, antibiotic use, or incorrect diet. Replacing these bacteria has been found to aid digestive function and to improve symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea and flatulence. Probiotics are available in capsule form from most pharmacies.
IBS can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing condition to have, but it can be dramatically improved by dietary and lifestyle changes, resulting in better digestive function and an overall better sense of wellbeing.
Lila Bruk is a registered dietician, nutritional consultant and freelance health journalist.
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