Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition, which means that if you have IBS, it is important for you to understand the condition and what you can do to manage it.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common problem that affects about 1 in 10 people in this country and around the world. IBS is considered a ‘functional’ bowel problem. That means that if you look at the bowel, it looks normal. But the nerves and muscles that control the bowel do not work normally, and that is what causes your symptoms.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Symptoms may include:
- abdominal pain
- diarrhea (or both diarrhea and constipation).
IBS symptoms tend to get worse and better over time.
What causes IBS symptoms?
No particular food causes IBS, but people may find that eating some foods makes their symptoms better or worse. Because IBS is complicated, a food that seems to cause symptoms today may not cause symptoms tomorrow. Stress also does not cause IBS, but stress may affect people’s symptoms as well. Keeping a symptom diary is one thing recommended for people with IBS. Tracking your symptoms can help you and your care team to see patterns in your symptoms over time. Here is a link to a free, printable version of an IBS symptom diary from the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.
What is the FODMAP diet and what does it have to do with IBS?
FODMAP stands for "F-ermentable O-ligosaccharides, D-isaccharides, M-onosaccharides A-nd Polyols." That is the complicated explanation. The simple explanation is that these substances (types of carbohydrates) make your gut unhappy and can cause more gas, pain and diarrhea. Recent research shows that people with IBS may be able to reduce some of their symptoms by eating less of foods with these types of carbohydrates.
Some foods to try eating less of or cutting out all together are:
- Dairy products containing lactose (cow's milk, yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese)
- Products with high fructose corn syrup and fruits such as apples, watermelon, pears, peaches and plums
- The following vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, brussel sprouts, broccoli, garlic and onion
- Products with artificial sweeteners such as sugar-free gum and mints.
You can read more about the FODMAP diet here.
Where can I find more information and help managing my IBS symptoms?
Learning more about your condition, IBS, and about your own triggers will help you to be an active, engaged partner in your care.
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) is a group working to provide education and support for people living with IBS and other similar GI problems. Founded in 1991 by Nancy and William Norton, IFFGD has been working with patients (both adults and children), families, physicians, practitioners, investigators, employers, regulators, and others to broaden understanding about gastrointestinal disorders and support research. If you think you might have IBS, talk to your healthcare provider, who can make sure the diagnosis is correct. You can read more about IBS and our providers at the MaineHealth website.
If you would like more information on IBS, or any other health related topic, the MaineHealth Learning Resource Centers are here to help! Our lending libraries can mail you any of the following books we have on our shelves about IBS and the FODMAP diet:
- IBS, Free at Last! Change Your Carbs, Change your Life with the FOD MAP Elimination Diet, Patsy Catsos, 2012.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome, The First Year, An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed, Heather Van Vorous, 2010.
- Wellness Solutions for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Mayo Clinic. (DVD), 2007.
- Making Sense of IBS, Brian Lacy, 2013.
The health educators at the Learning Resource Center can also provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.