Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is no picnic. Over 15 million people in the United States suffer with bouts of cramping, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain. Digestive disorders, like IBS, can cause a great deal of emotional and physical distress yet many people quietly suffer on their own without seeking medical attention.
The specific causes of IBS are unknown but in my work as a dietitian-nutritionist, I have seen how effective diet modification is in helping to lower the frequency, and ease the severity, of symptoms. I also recommend an individualized treatment plan that focuses on your medical history and lifestyle.
Here are 6 ways to ease symptoms of IBS:
1. Check for microbial imbalance. Unhealthy microbes or bacteria in the wrong place can be the root cause of IBS. It is estimated that up to 84% of IBS patients have Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO, a condition in which the type of bacteria normally found in the large intestine proliferates in the small intestine where it doesn’t belong. It can affect the absorption of nutrients, and cause significant bloating and discomfort.
Pathogenic microorganisms anywhere in the gut can also cause IBS symptoms. At Kaplan Center, our physicians order specialized tests to find out the type and location of microorganisms in the intestinal track. If an overgrowth is detected, this will be treated with prescription antibiotics, and anti-fungals or natural antimicrobials, such as oil of oregano and garlic extract.
2. Look for major triggers and irritants. Gluten, corn, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, additives, and gums (such as carregean) can be major triggers. Other irritants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and NSAID’s such as ibuprofen, can worsen IBS symptoms. Eliminating these from your diet for a period of time can help to ease and/or, in some cases, eliminate, symptoms.
3. Test High FODMAP foods. Some healthy foods such as apples, watermelons, and broccoli can worsen IBS symptoms. FODMAPS, which stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols, are types of carbohydrates that are osmotic and will pull water into the intestine. These foods may not be absorbed well, and can be fermented by bacteria in your intestine, worsening IBS symptoms. Eliminate high FODMAP foods from your diet completely for 4 weeks. Re-introduce them one by one to narrow-down the list of foods that cause your IBS symptoms to flare up.
4. Look for inflammation. Try an anti-inflammatory diet for 6 weeks. Anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric and ginger can help bring down inflammation in the digestive track, thereby easing IBS symptoms. I recommend an anti-inflammatory diet not only to address immediate symptoms, but for long-term health as well.
5. Try digestive aids. Sometimes acidity in the stomach needs to be stimulated and digestive enzymes need to be replaced. If foods are not broken down to a molecule small enough for absorption, it can affect digestive health. Natural antispasmodics such as peppermint oil can help with motility (the movements of the digestive system and the transit of the contents within it). Physical therapy and acupuncture can also be helpful for bowel function, especially constipation.
6. Introduce probiotics and nutrients. Beneficial bacteria and certain nutrients are essential for healing the lining of the gut. At Kaplan Center we offer specific formulations of a variety of probiotics depending on the needs of the patient. Nutrients that are essential to gut health include zinc, L glutamine, rice bran oil, and slippery elm.
– Maria Hepler, RDN, CLT
April 20, 2016Print this page