People who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have digestive tracts that react abnormally to certain substances or to stress. This leads to symptoms like cramps, gas, bloating, pain, constipation, and diarrhea. IBS is sometimes called a “spastic colon.” It is a common health problem. It is not a disease. But rather it's a group of symptoms that happen together.
Your healthcare professional may suggest some lifestyle changes to help control your IBS. Changing your diet and managing stress are two of the most important. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and try some of the suggestions below.
Change your diet
Your diet may be an important cause of IBS symptoms. You may want to try the following:
- Pay attention to what foods bother you, and stay away from them. For example, dairy products are hard for some people to digest. Lactose-free dairy products may be better for your symptoms.
- Don't eat high FODMAP foods. Other common foods that can cause symptoms contain carbohydrates called FODMAPs. These are poorly digested by your body. High FODMAP foods include some fruits such as apples, vegetables such as cabbage, and some dairy. They also include certain sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, and xylitol. Many people find that eating a diet low in FODMAPs can ease symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider about a low FODMAP diet.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
- Don't have caffeine or tobacco. These are muscle stimulants and can affect the working of your digestive tract.
- Don't drink alcohol. It can irritate your digestive tract and make your symptoms worse.
- Eat more fiber if constipation is a problem. Fiber makes the stool softer and easier to pass through the colon.
- Eat more fiber if diarrhea is a problem. Fiber also helps to bind water. This can help to firm up loose stool.
If stress or anxiety makes your IBS symptoms worse, learning how to manage stress may help you feel better. Try these tips:
- Identify the causes of stress in your life.
- Learn new ways to cope with them.
- Regular exercise is a great way to relieve stress. It can also help ease constipation. For adults, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. It also recommends muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week. If this sounds like a lot of time, the CDC suggests breaking physical activity into 10-minute blocks and spreading it out over a week. Developing a schedule that works for you is the key to a successful exercise program.
Should I take probiotics for IBS?
While some probiotics have been shown to have benefits of one or two symptoms, the majority of probiotics are unlikely to cause IBS improvements. If you are interested in taking a probiotic for IBS symptoms, discuss with your healthcare provider before beginning any probiotics.
If you or someone you know needs a primary care provider, you can visit touro.com/findadoc or call 504.897.7777
Dr. Virendra Joshi completed Internal Medicine Residency, at the University of Illinois Chicago Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago, Illinois in 1995. In 1996 he was Physician-Scientist at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia. Dr. Virendra completed his Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Fellowship, Department at the Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University, Augusta Georgia in 1998.