Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment

  • Treatment

    IBS is not a life-threatening condition, but you should seek medical help if your symptoms are interfering with your daily life.

    Changes in your diet can significantly improve IBS Table 02. Avoid beverages and foods that precipitate symptoms to minimize irritable bowel attacks. Common offenders include caffeine, alcohol, dairy products, artificial sweeteners, and high-fat foods. Even in people who are not lactose-intolerant, dairy is a common trigger. All dairy products, and particularly those that are high in fat, tend to be very difficult to digest, regardless of your tolerance for lactose. As a result, they are second only to red meat as IBS triggers. Because eating triggers bowel contractions, smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day may be easier on the intestines than three large meals.

    Fiber supplementation can also be helpful in IBS. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber is “rough”; it does not dissolve in water, so it passes intact through the intestinal tract, increasing the frequency, water content, and looseness of bowel movements. In comparison, soluble fiber is “smooth,” and is soothing to the digestive tract. It absorbs excess water in the colon, pushes through impacted fecal matter, and regulates intestinal contractions. In this way it helps to prevent the painful spasms, and relieves both the diarrhea and constipation of IBS. Foods that are naturally high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, pasta, rice, potatoes, soy, barley, nuts, beans, and oat bran. Though insoluble fiber is very beneficial to your overall good health, it must be introduced carefully, as it can also trigger severe attacks of pain and diarrhea in IBS sufferers. Whole-grain breads and cereals, wheat bran, and fruits and vegetables are all great sources of insoluble fiber. If you don't usually eat a lot of fiber, be sure to increase your intake slowly to avoid gas and bloating. Also, staying hydrated is important for maintaining normal bowel function. Be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water every day, and ten glasses or more if you are consuming extra fiber. It is also important to avoid cigarettes, as tobacco disrupts your digestive tract.

    If you are unable to get enough fiber through your diet, try bulk agents like Metamucil, FiberCon, and Citrucel. Bulking agents such as these add water to stool and make it easier to pass. Try using them once a day, and increase gradually if necessary. Since these are natural forms of fiber your body needs, and are not stimulant laxatives, there is no danger of dependency with regular and consistent use. Don't forget to drink enough water every day (8-10 glasses) while you are taking extra fiber.

    Get plenty of exercise. Exercise reduces stress, and can help you maintain regular bowel activity. There is no need to subject yourself to a strenuous workout regimen. Walking for 20 minutes a day or doing yoga a few times a week are good for digestion. More intense activities like aerobics, running, and biking can be beneficial as well.

    Table 2.   High-Fiber Foods

    Food Fiber per serving
    All bran 6-7 g per 1/4 cup
    Raisin bran 6-7 g per cup
    Shredded wheat 4-5 g per cup
    Dried beans (cooked) 6-7 g per ? cup
    Lentils (cooked) 4-5 g per ? cup
    Sweet potato (cooked) 4-5 g per ? cup
    Avocado 8.5 g
    Apple 4 g
    Orange 3 g
    Peaches (canned) 3.2 g per cup
    Prunes (dried) 6 g per 10 prunes

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    Biofeedback, relaxation techniques, and counseling may help relieve the symptoms of IBS. A recent study, however, has suggested that acupuncture may be a more effective way of reducing abdominal pain.

    Peppermint appears to be a safe and soothing balsam for irritable intestines. In one study, coated peppermint oil capsules lessened or eliminated abdominal pain in the majority of IBS patients who took it. There were no side effects reported.

    An approach that combines different treatments tailored toward individual circumstances improves IBS in the majority of patients. Since there is, as yet, no known cure for IBS, it is considered to be a life-long condition. However, most people can be treated successfully with dietary or lifestyle modifications alone. Medications targeted at specific symptoms are often effective, but should be used in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle measures.

    A key part of IBS management involves a good doctor-patient relationship. Make sure your doctor can provide you with the support and reassurance you need to accomplish your treatment goals.

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