Take Control of your IBS
what is IBS?
SOME PEOPLE WITH BLOATING HAVE IBS. IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS) IS A DIGESTIVE DISORDER. IT MAY BE A CHRONIC, RECURRING AND OFTEN LIFE-LONG DISORDER. IBS IS DIAGNOSED BY YOUR DOCTOR.
IBS includes symptoms of abdominal pain or discomfort, which is either relieved by going to the toilet or associated with altered bowel frequency or stool form. Wind with/without bloating is also common in IBS. IBS can entail bouts of urgent diarrhoea, and episodes of constipation or a pattern of alternating between the two. IBS is considered a functional disorder, because it involves a malfunction in how the intestinal system works.
IBS is not life threatening but it can significantly affect your quality of life.
IBS most often first affects people between the ages of 20 and 30 years and is twice as common in women as in men. It is estimated to occur in 20-30% of the general population.
Recent trends show that IBS is frequently seen in older people.
Simple diet and nutrition tips for people suffering from IBS
If you suspect you have IBS, see a doctor to rule out other possible causes. Depending on the type of IBS you have, there are different measures you can take.
If you have IBS, it is advisable to avoid eating insoluble fibre like bran.
Increase your dietary fibre, eat soluble fibre found in foods containing oats.
People with wind and bloating may find it helpful to eat oats (such as oat-based breakfast cereal or porridge) and
linseeds (up to one tablespoon per day).
Chew thoroughly. This will help prevent you from eating too fast and swallowing air, which can lead to bloating and
Eat at a leisurely pace – if you must eat in a hurry, serve yourself half portions.
Avoid eating large amounts of food in one sitting as this can trigger an IBS attack.
Avoid missing meals or leaving long gaps between eating.
Frequently eat small portions of food, the emptier your stomach is, the more sensitive you will be.
Drink at least eight cups of fluid per day, especially water or other non-caffeinated drinks, for example herbal teas.
Restrict tea and coffee to three cups per day.
Avoid ice-cold foods and drinks on an empty stomach. Cold makes muscles contract, and your goal with the IBS diet
is to keep your stomach and your intestines as calm as possible.
When eating limit the amount of water or other fluids you drink, as this can inhibit digestion.
Reduce intake of alcohol and fizzy drinks.
Avoid chewing gum, as it causes you to swallow excess air, which can trigger problems.
Limit fresh fruit to three portions per day.
People with diarrhoea should avoid sorbitol, an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free sweets (including chewing gum)
and drinks, and in some diabetic and slimming products.
Reduce intake of ‘resistant starch’ (starch that resists digestion in the intestine and reaches the colon intact), this is
the type of starch that is often found in processed or re-cooked foods.
A diagnosis of IBS is usually made after your doctor has ruled out other causes, which are discussed below.
Your doctor will only consider a diagnosis of IBS where abdominal pain or discomfort is either relieved by going
to the toilet or associated with altered bowel frequency or stool form. At least two of the following four symptoms
must be present in order to consider a diagnosis of IBS:
- Altered stool passage (straining, urgency, incomplete evacuation) or diarrhoea
- Cramping pain in the gut
- Abdominal bloating (more common in women than men), distension, tension or hardness
- Symptoms made worse by eating e.g. bloating
Other features such as lethargy, nausea, backache and bladder symptoms are common in people with IBS.
If you have been suffering with any of the following symptoms for at least 6 months you should consider contacting
a healthcare professional.
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Change in bowel habit
A healthcare professional will pay special attention to the following indicators and may refer you to a secondary care
facility for further investigation if any of the following symptoms are present:
- Unintentional and unexplained weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
- A family history of bowel or ovarian cancer
- A change in bowel habit to looser and/or more frequent stools persisting
for more than 6 weeks in a person aged over 60 years
IBS is generally diagnosed after other disorders have been ruled out through routine diagnostic testing.
It may take some time before diagnosis of IBS can be confirmed.