What is IBS?

In layman terms, IBS is nothing but a group of symptoms like abdominal pain and drastic changes in bowel movements that has a negative effect on the quality of one’s life through the passage of time. Anxiety issues, depression and chronic fatigue are common among patients suffering from IBS.

IBS has been broadly categorized into four major types:

  • IBS-C (Constipation is common)
  • IBS-D (Diarrhea is common)
  • IBS-M (Both Constipation and Diarrhea are common)
  • IBS-U ( Nether Constipation nor Diarrhea occurs often)

Most people suffering from this ailment find that they’re gassy all the time with a constant bloated feeling. Reports suggest that people with IBS can’t get rid of gas like normal people possibly because of malfunctioning in their gut muscles and nerves.

In most cases, people suffering from IBS have extra sensitive intestines as well. As a result, a small amount of accumulated gas can cause severe discomfort.

For instance, if you’re out dining with friends, or are at work with your colleagues, or even if you are sharing an intimate moment with a loved one, nothing kills the moment more than worrying about your discomforting gas and whether you might let one slip unintentionally! The physical discomfort and the anxiety in your mind can totally ruin your good times.

Preventive Measures

Dealing with IBS is not easy. This is because the symptoms vary across patients and a generic treatment doesn’t work for everyone. Therefore, it is best to take precautionary and preventive measures beforehand. Most of these deal with the kind of food you eat.

        Foods You Should Avoid

Owing to the vast differences in how IBS affects different people, the first step is to know what foods you should avoid at all costs. The following list enumerates the most common foods that people should avoid if they are suffering from gas related problems:

  • Legumes like beans, peas, peanuts and lentils
  • Raw broccoli and cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Raisins

        Foods You Should Regulate

There are certain foods that you can consume in moderate measures, but they need to be regulated, as overconsumption can lead to adverse effects in people with IBS.

  • Fiber ­- The thumb rule with people suffering from IBS is that they need to incorporate more fiber-rich foods into their diets. However, this can make gas related issues worse in some cases. The kind and amount of fiber you consume matters a lot. Insoluble fiber, mostly found in whole wheat, tends to create more gas in people with IBS. On the other hand, two types of fiber, polycarbophil and methylcellulose, mostly found in fiber supplement, is known to reduce gas. Ultimately, people suffering from IBS need to increase their fiber gradually, as initial intake may increase gas production, but the situation improves for the better once your body starts getting used to it.
  • Carbohydrates – Certain carbohydrates known as FODMAPs can cause problems for people suffering from IBS. These carbs cannot be absorbed by the small intestine, and upon hitting the large intestine, they quickly disintegrate and create gas. This happens with each and every human being, but it is a problem only for people suffering from IBS. There are certain foods very high on FODMAPs. Australian scientists have successfully created a regular diet to avoid these foods. Following is a list of foods the diet suggests you should refrain from eating:
  • Apples, Mangoes, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Cherries, Apricots, Blackberries, Nectarines and Watermelon
  • Legumes like Beans and Lentils, Peas, Onions, Leeks, Mushrooms, Artichokes, Garlic, Celery, Cauliflower and Corn
  • Dairy products like Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Custard and Ice-Cream
  • Honey, Corn Syrup, Candy and certain Sugar-Free Chewing Gums
  • Wheat and Rye
  • Cashews and Pistachios

Treatment

Although there is no targeted treatment for IBS yet, certain kinds of allopathic medicines can help a lot.

  • Probiotics and Antibiotics – A prevailing theory with IBS is that the good bacteria residing in a human being’s intestines have been disrupted. Some of these bacteria release gas while breaking down food. People suffering from IBS may have too many of these bacteria. Probiotics add bacteria to your digestive system to help bring back the right balance. Recent studies show that taking probiotics is helpful to people with IBS. Some people have also reported that taking antibiotics has helped reduce their gassiness. This may very well hold true as the antibiotic kills gas-producing bacteria in your body.
  • Medication – Certain over-the-counter dietary supplements can inhibit the production of gas in your body. Among these, lactase, an enzyme, helps you digest milk and other dairy products better and another enzyme, alpha-galactosidase, helps break down the sugar in beans and other vegetables, thus reducing the gas production in your body.

Other Useful Tips

  • Eat Small, Regular Meals Slowly Doing this will enable you to digest your food properly, thus reducing the production of gas in your body and eliminating ‘that bloated feeling.’
  • Stay Away From Fizzy Drinks – Fizzy drinks like champagne, soda and soft drinks are literally pumped with gas. Need we say more?
  • Quit Smoking – Smoking in injurious to health anyway, but with people suffering from IBS, it is worse because it facilitates the production of more gas in your body.
  • Don’t Chew Gum – One of the primary causes of gas is swallowing air. Now, all of us do need to breathe of course, but chewing gum only increases the amount of air you are taking in which will eventually end up as gas in your intestines.
  • Relaxation, Exercise and Good Sleep ­– Although anxiety and stress don’t have a direct effect on IBS, managing them in a relaxed manner can make the symptoms a lot better. Ditto with sleep. Basically, you need to take care of your mental health. Regular exercising can also help tremendously.

In the end, IBS can be managed successfully if you lead a disciplined, healthy life. So, while abdominal pain and bloating are common enough, if you start seeing symptoms of drastic weight gain or loss, anemia and tiredness then you should consult a doctor immediately.

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SOURCES:

Hernando-Harder, A. American Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2010.
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: “Bloating,” “Report from Fernando Azpiroz, MD, PhD: Understanding Intestinal Gas,” “Controlling Intestinal Gas,” “What are treatment options for IBS?” “Probiotics and Antibiotics,” “Gut Bacteria and IBS,” “Symptoms of IBS,” “The Low FODMAP Diet Approach: Dietary Triggers for IBS Symptoms,” “IBS Diet: Dietary Fiber.”
American Academy of Family Physicians: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”
UpToDate: “Patient Information: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Beyond the Basics.)”
Eswaran, S. American Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2013.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”
Staudacher, H. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, October 2011.
Monash University: “Low FODMAP diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”
Aragon, G. Gastroenterology & Hepatology, January 2010.
UpToDate: “Patient Information: Gas and bloating (Beyond the Basics.)”
Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology July 2009.
Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on December 13, 2015
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