IBS 101: What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Let's Get Personal

Early in my nutrition career, someone very close to me started developing abdominal bloating rather frequently. I remember that she would get so upset and self-conscious to the point to where she wouldn’t even wear her favorite clothes out anymore because of the bloating. She was trying over the counter supplements to try to alleviate her symptoms, but eventually the bloating was accompanied with chronic constipation and abdominal cramping. 

Due to the severity of the pain she was experiencing, her medical provider referred her to a gastroenterologist who performed a colonoscopy and an upper GI endoscopy, both of which were normal.

The end result was a diagnosis of IBS-C: Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation. It was time for me to start learning as much as possible about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which I look forward to sharing what I have learned in our Foodguides Community.

Let’s start with the basics: 

What is IBS? Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects your digestive system by disrupting how your bowel muscles contract. There is a strong connection between a dysregulation of the gut-brain axis in IBS. This can lead to a variety of symptoms including abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or a mix of constipation/diarrhea.

IBS is a chronic condition that is not only common, but tends to affect twice as many women as men. 

There are many different types of IBS, but these are the most commonly types: IBS-C- Irritable Bowel Syndrome- Constipation; IBS-D- Irritable Bowel Syndrome- Diarrhea and IBS-M- Irritable Bowel Syndrome- Mixed, which can include both constipation and diarrhea. There is also IBS-U, or IBS-Unsubtyped.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown.

I know that might sound frustrating, but do not give up hope! We have made so many advances in the health and nutrition community that there is some excellent evidence-based practice to help with symptom management!

Basic nutrition recommendations include following a high-fiber, low-fat meal approach however many gastroenterologists are recommending the Low-FODMAP diet to help identify the triggers that may be making the symptoms of your IBS worse.

We have been talking a lot about the Low-FODMAP diet phases (elimination & challenge) and will continue to offer Low-FODMAP food choices to make this option a helpful addition to your personal toolbox!

Additionally, these recommendations are helpful to alleviating discomfort from IBS:

  • Eating Mindfully. What this means is taking the time to chew your food and eating slowly to make sure you are not swallowing extra air during meal and snack times. Eating fast or gulping your beverages can make you more gassy and bloated.
  • Reevaluate your over-the-counter supplements. Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications or supplements that you are taking. Not only can some antacids contain ingredients that can make your symptoms worse, but there are many dietary supplements that can have an effect on your GI tract. 
  • Get your fluids in to prevent constipation. How much fluid do you need? The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicines recommends about 15.5 cups of fluid a day for men (3.7 liters) and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. This includes fluid from water, food, and other beverages. -RDN Side Tip: If you make your hand into a fist, this is about the size of one cup! 

* Foodguides.com articles have been reviewed by subject experts for accuracy, if you are experiencing heartburn and think you may be dealing with GERD, please see a GI doctor. 

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