Irritable bowel syndrome can be a troubling condition to live with but proves to be a remarkably common one, with some informed estimates calculating that 10 to 15% of the population grapple with the disorder.
It is important to have recurring symptoms of the disorder diagnosed. But alongside accurate diagnosis and prescribed treatments, carefully considering the foods you eat can help dramatically reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, radically restoring a patient’s ability to go about their day unhindered.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: its cause and symptoms
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS) is a relatively common disorder that affects the digestive system, particularly the large intestine. Often the effects of this syndrome are caused by abnormalities in the muscle contractions of the large intestine or by inflammation. Other causes can include abnormalities in the nervous system’s communication with your digestive system, viral or bacterial infection, and small changes in the naturally occurring bacteria in the gut.
As a result of any of these causes, the symptoms most commonly include abdominal pain, cramps, and a bloated feeling around the bowel that can come and go over time. These feelings might often find themselves relieved by passing a bowel movement. Symptoms can show up in the bowel movements themselves, whether in the form of diarrhea or constipation, the presence of mucus in the stool, or in excess gas.
Living with Symptoms: the impact on daily life
With the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome being unpredictable, and potentially painful, the condition can affect daily life by curtailing the ability to concentrate and to sleep, and in some cases causes fainting, vomiting, and problems with moving while under the temporary effects of a bout of abdominal symptoms.
Dealing with such symptoms can motivate careful planning of daily life to maintain access to toilets and more regularly align the body clock to keep bowel movements functioning more predictably. A major contributing factor in reducing the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and maintaining the flow of daily life comes through careful attention to the diet, making sure that what is eaten is not a food that can aggravate symptoms.
Reducing Symptoms: the foods to avoid
People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome will find that despite eating a healthy and balanced diet, certain foodstuffs can still regularly trigger symptoms. Though everybody’s bodies and symptoms are different, avoiding certain kinds of food can help avoid triggers, regularizing bowel movements while reducing abdominal cramps and other pains and irregularities.
Caffeinated and Alcoholic Drinks
When picking what to drink, it is advisable to avoid or cut down the consumption of caffeinated drinks, alongside carbonated beverages and alcohol. Studies have found that caffeine consumption was associated with an increased risk of IBS. Caffeinated drinks, being a stimulant, can affect the large intestines, causing digestive irregularity and leading to diarrhea. Alcoholic drinks can lead to dehydration, which can negatively impact sensitive digestion, problems compounded by the potential presence of gluten and artificial sweeteners. Regulating alcohol intake alongside opting for gluten-free beers are a sensible way to enjoy alcohol without inflaming symptoms.
Picking the Right Fruits, Fibers, Veg, and Beans
It is also good to avoid insoluble fibers, the kind often found in the skins of fruits, and fruits high in fructose like apples and stone fruits. If you are looking to increase your fiber intake, avoid these sources, and increase your intake gradually up to the recommended amounts. With this in mind, it is also advisable to avoid beans, which have indigestible components – lentils, chickpeas, and baked beans are prime offenders here, so the amount consumed should be limited to small amounts. Certain ‘cruciferous’ vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower should also be avoided, and swapped out for more wholesome vegetables like carrots, green beans, spinach, and sweet potato.
Consider Gluten Intake
Even if undiagnosed with celiac disease, it might be helpful to trial a gluten-free diet to see if it alleviates symptoms. Gluten is found in barley, wheat, and rye, and thus ends up in many food products. Though research in this area is still ongoing, there is some suggestion that even those sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome without celiac disease may still find themselves more susceptible and more sensitive to gluten.
Many of us enjoy fried foods, but we all understand they are unhealthy, especially if indulged in too often. For those suffering from the effects of irritable bowel syndrome, the high-fat content of these fried foods is not only unhealthy but could also inflame symptoms. Frying foods that would otherwise be fine to eat can make them harder to digest, potentially reactivating symptoms – as an alternative method, grilling is a much safer option.
Everyone’s digestive system will behave differently, so it takes experimentation and adaptation to find the perfect diet to alleviate symptoms. Talking to a doctor, a dietitian, and keeping a diary of meals and symptoms can all be helpful steps to keeping IBS under control.