Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects men and women of all ages. While it is manageable for most people who have it, for some it can cause a severe disruption to daily life, as well as chronic pain and suffering. And if left undiagnosed, the condition can be debilitating.
It's not known exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome, but potential culprits include genetics, diet, specific medications and stress. Most often, doctors will first recommend that patients start on an IBS diet before any type of medicinal treatment is prescribed. For many sufferers, following a diet for irritable bowel syndrome can be enough to control their IBS.
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
By definition, IBS is a bowel disorder that encompasses a range of abdominal and gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, cramps, diarrhea and constipation. It affects those afflicted in varying severities, from the occasional bout of discomfort to near-chronic pain and suffering.
Irritable bowel syndrome is often confused with other intestinal diseases, such as Crohn's disease or colitis, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Most often, doctors will start by taking a list of symptoms and performing tests, including a lower GI series and a colonoscopy, in order to make a diagnosis.
Eating for IBS
A number of foods have been identified by IBS sufferers as symptom triggers that should be avoided on an irritable bowel diet. These include high-fat foods, dairy products, alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages.
To figure out which foods are their triggers and create an irritable bowel syndrome diet, patients are generally asked to keep a food journal and then attempt to eliminate certain problematic foods until the triggers are identified. Often, eliminating a trigger food can make a big difference in the daily management of the condition.
Along with avoiding certain foods, the diet for IBS also includes adding specific foods. A low-fat, low cholesterol diet is almost always recommended, as is increasing fiber intake through the generous dietary inclusion of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is advised, however, to increase daily fiber slowly, as too much fiber too quickly can cause discomfort.