Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a highly prevalent disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Nearly 20% of the U.S. population suffers from its uncomfortable and often debilitating effects. This is compounded by the condition’s chronic and episodic nature. About twice as many women as men have IBS and it is most often found in people younger than 45 years old.
Those with IBS are all too familiar with its symptoms and considerable impact on their work life, social activities, and well-being. People with IBS usually have crampy abdominal pain that is associated with constipation and/or diarrhea or abdominal bloating. In some people, constipation predominates (IBS-C); in others diarrhea is more common (IBS-D). Some people have both (IBS-M for "mixed") or neither (IBS-U for "unspecified"). Over time, constipation and diarrhea can even alternate (IBS-A).
Changes in diet and supplementation are keys to managing IBS, reducing symptoms, and gaining relief. If you suffer from IBS you will want to pay close attention to your nutrition in order to determine which foods cause you discomfort. It is a good idea to keep a journal noting which foods cause distress before changing your diet.
Most IBS sufferers will want to eliminate gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, and highly limit caffeine. In addition to a daily multi-vitamin and omega 3 fish oil, you will need to supplement with L-glutamine (500g/day) to rebuild the walls of the intestinal tract, along with multi-probiotics (5-20 billion units/day and prebiotics (3-5g/day). Probiotics are relatively inexpensive, extremely safe and work quickly to ease IBS symptoms. Be sure to look for a “multi – probiotic formula” this means that there are multiple strands of probiotics to build up healthy gut flora.
Although neither soluble nor insoluble fiber will cure IBS, soluble fiber, which helps form and move bulk through the intestines and slows transit time, may lessen constipation and diarrhea associated with IBS. The best approach is to gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet over a period of weeks, working towards a minimum of 25 grams per day. Examples of foods that contain soluble fiber are legumes, rice, quinoa, oatmeal, okra, potatoes, carrots, apples, bananas, papayas, and avocados.
IBS is often made worse by large meals, high fat meals, alcohol, chocolate, and caffeinated drinks. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and drinking water throughout the day may make IBS symptoms better.