Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)- A Dietary Approach

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the large intestine with no evidence of accompanying infection or structural defect.  It is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in general practice, constituting 30-50% of all referrals to gastroenterologists.  There are no laboratory tests available to diagnose IBS.  The diagnosis is made according to a group of established symptoms called the “Rome Criteria”.  Symptoms can include abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, gas, loss of appetite, indigestion along with anxiety or depression, fatigue, headaches, excessive sweating and sleep disturbances. Many other conditions may mimic the symptoms of IBS and should be ruled out by your doctor.  The causes for IBS are not completely clear, but physiological, psychological and dietary factors have all been linked to this condition, including excessive numbers of bacteria in the intestines.

Dietary Treatment Considerations

 Increasing dietary fiber: The best types of fiber for an IBS patient to include in their diet are the water-soluble fiber types  (found in vegetables, fruits, oat bran, guar and legumes (beans and peas)) and psyllium seed powder.  Increase fiber slowly.  Patients who have a propensity for diarrhea may find that increasing fiber might aggravate this problem, however stools typically normalize over time.

Identify Food Sensitivities: Several studies indicate that as many as two-thirds of people with IBS will improve or even become symptom-free if they identify (via an elimination diet) and avoid the foods to which they are intolerant. The foods that most commonly cause symptoms seem to be dairy products, onions, wheat, chocolate, coffee, eggs, nuts, citrus, tea, rye, potatoes, barley, oats and corn. A structured plan for identifying these sensitivities is typically warranted.

Support Integrity and function of GI system:  Some culinary herbs and foods have carminative (gas reducing), demulcent (intestinal lining/mucosal healing with decreased inflammation) and antispasmodic (decreased intestinal cramping and spasm) properties that are helpful to include in the dietary treatment of IBS. These can be prescribed by your Naturopathic Physician.

Other Considerations

 Stress Management: IBS may be exacerbated by times of high stress.  Consider techniques such as yoga, mediation, and mild exercise to help minimize the effects of a high stress lifestyle.

Ultimately a functional approach is the answer to this dysfunctional condition.

To  learn more, please come see us at Core Wellness, Helena, MT.

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