It’s time. Time for us to better understand irritable bowel syndrome. Time for those who endure its symptoms to speak up. Time for silent sufferers to get help. IBS does not have to be this strange, unspoken, embarrassing disorder. We don’t have to feel strange and embarrassed to talk about it. 30 million Americans suffer from IBS and most likely, there are millions more who have not yet been diagnosed. April is IBS Awareness Month. At Associates in Digestive Health, we want to educate you on the symptoms of IBS, their triggers, and offer solutions to minimize the discomfort. Don’t let IBS ruin your life. It’s time to say something.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic disorder that disrupts the life of its sufferers. Pain and embarrassment take over when the symptoms arise. IBS occurs when the intestine is inflamed and it reveals itself through a variety of symptoms. Abdominal cramping or bloating are most common, along with bouts of diarrhea or constipation—and sometimes alternating bouts of both. In some cases, IBS is accompanied by mucus in the stool or excessive gas. None of these symptoms are fun to deal with, but none of them can cause damage to the tissue of your intestine. IBS is also not a risk factor for colon cancer.
As you pay attention to the symptoms you experience, make sure you note when your symptoms flare up. This will help you and your GI doctor determine what triggers your IBS and what steps you need to take to minimize your symptoms. Hormonal changes is a trigger that largely impacts women. In fact, women are twice as likely to experience IBS than men. Most women notice their symptoms increase in either severity or frequency during their period. Food is another common trigger for both men and women. Some foods seem to provoke symptoms. This includes dairy products, wheat products, beans, cabbage, citrus fruits, or carbonated beverages. As you take inventory of what you are eating and when your IBS symptoms strike, know that this does not mean you are allergic to a specific food. IBS is not a good indicator of a food intolerance; it simply designates foods you may want to avoid. Stress is a trigger that often feels unavoidable. In certain phases of life, you may notice that your symptoms have increased as a result of stress. However, you can take control over your lifestyle and make some adjustments that may lessen the severity of your IBS symptoms. We want to reiterate that none of these triggers actually cause IBS. Hormone changes, foods, and stress may provoke your symptoms, but they do not cause them.
There is not a cure for IBS, but we can offer you some solutions to help reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms. Managing your stress is vital when it comes to managing IBS. It may be unavoidable as a whole, but by getting enough sleep and exercising on a regular basis, you may be able to curb your stress levels and therefore curb the intensity of your symptoms. If diarrhea is a symptom you experience regularly, you may want to cut gluten out of your diet. Even if you do not have celiac disease, it might be beneficial to avoid wheat, barley, and rye products. Cutting out alcohol and carbonated beverages, caffeine, raw fruits, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower may reduce symptoms associated with gas and bloating. Instead, consume foods that are high in fiber and drink plenty of fluid. If your symptoms continue even after lifestyle and diet adjustments are made, consult your gastroenterologist at Associates In Digestive Health to see if there is a medication that’s right for you.
Don’t wait another day. It’s time for you to step up and speak out about the symptoms you are experiencing. If you are concerned that you may have IBS, schedule an appointment at Associates in Digestive Health. We have a team of doctors who specialize in treatment of the gastrointestinal tract, a team dedicated to helping you feel better.