How to Live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Four Methods:Eating an Appropriate DietReducing and Managing StressPursuing Nontraditional TherapiesUnderstanding Your Disease

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is characterized by chronic abdominal pain accompanied by irregular bowel habits (usually a combination of diarrhea and constipation). It is a condition that has no known medical cause, and that cannot be completely "cured;" however, by eating an appropriate diet, managing stress, looking into alternative therapies, and gaining an understanding of the condition and the psychological impacts it can have, you can equip yourself to live with this condition while minimizing the impact it has on your daily life.

Method 1
Eating an Appropriate Diet

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    Consume fiber-rich foods if you have constipation.[1] Fiber can help prevent IBS symptoms because it improves intestinal functioning. It may decrease bloating, pain, and other symptoms by softening your stools so that your body can pass them more easily.[2]
    • Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, and whole grain cereals. Try to eat something containing fiber with each meal. Add fiber to your diet slowly to minimize bloating and gas that can be brought on by a sudden increase in fiber. Work with your doctor and possibly a dietitian to find a diet that is healthy and that works for you.
    • Sources of soluble fiber may also help, such as dried beans and other legumes, oats, barley, and berries. These work to slow down the passage of food from the stomach to the intestines.
    • If you suffer from diarrhea caused by IBS, then this diet modification is not for you. You don't need to avoid fiber entirely — you need it as part of a healthy diet — just make sure you're eating soluble fiber (found in peas, oats, dried fruits, and more) rather than insoluble fiber (found in wheat, corn, the skins of root vegetables, and more).[3]
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    Avoid sweets, fatty foods, and any food or drink containing fructose syrup. All of these can make IBS symptoms worse, including diarrhea.[4] Specific foods to avoid are dairy, honey, chocolate, sugar-free candy and gums, and wheat and rye breads.[5] Also, vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts may trigger bloating and gas.[6]
    • Beverages to avoid include alcoholic beverages, dairy, anything containing chocolate, anything with caffeine such as coffee, tea, and soda, and anything with fructose syrup.[7]
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    Try an elimination diet.[8] Even with the above guidelines, each body reacts differently to different foods. Elimination diets are a very effective way to pinpoint foods that trigger negative reactions. Make a list of possible food triggers, then eliminate one food at a time for 12 weeks. [9]
    • Another option is to try a gluten-free and/or a lactose-free diet, as these are common triggers for IBS symptoms. See if bloating and gas decrease. If you switch to either diet permanently, make sure to research and work with your doctor to ensure you're getting appropriate nutrition.

Method 2
Reducing and Managing Stress

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    Ask about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps IBS patients to cope with the stress and anxiety that often come hand-in-hand with the condition.[10] It trains people to identify and to change inaccurate perceptions they may have of themselves and of the world around them. People are trained to analyze negative, distorted thoughts, and to replace them with positive and realistic thoughts. CBT has been used as a strategy to help IBS patients ease symptoms and improve quality of life.
    • Many IBS patients show symptom improvement after undergoing CBT. [11] In one study, 60% to 75% of participants had improvement in their symptoms after a 10-week CBT program. [12]
    • Some patients who suffer from prolonged anxiety and/or depression as a result of the challenge of living with IBS find it helpful to try antidepressant medication.[13] Speak to your doctor if you feel this may be a helpful option for you.
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    Prioritize time for relaxation. Stress is a well-known trigger for IBS symptoms. In times of stress, nerves in the colon can contract and cause abdominal pain. People with IBS are more sensitive to stress-induced abdominal symptoms. [14] Learning relaxation techniques may help to alleviate IBS symptoms.
    • Try setting aside time every day to do something that relaxes you, such as taking a nap, reading, or listening to music. [15]
    • Another option is to try meditation. Stress-relieving meditation has been shown to suppress the activity of genes that contribute to inflammation in people with IBS. One study showed that people who did yoga and meditation regularly for two months had fewer symptoms as a result.[16]
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    Use exercise to relieve stress and to improve overall well-being. Regular exercise is even more important for people with IBS than it is for others. In 2011, researchers reported that people with IBS who exercised with the support of a physical therapist several times a week experienced improved IBS symptoms compared to a control group that did not exercise with a physical therapist.[17]
    • Exercising also helps the digestive system to work properly and it may help to decrease constipation. Another study showed that IBS patients who performed moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, had significantly less constipation symptoms.[18]
    • Aim for exercise that gets your heart pumping. Try cardiovascular activities, like biking or walking. These activities will improve your overall health and help to release tension and stress.[19]

Method 3
Pursuing Nontraditional Therapies

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    Take probiotics. Probiotics are "good" bacteria that normally live in your intestines and are found in yogurt and some dietary supplements and can be bought in drink form or pill form. Some studies suggest that probiotics may relieve symptoms of IBS like abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.[20][21]
    • Probiotics can be bought at your local health foods store either in pill form or in liquid form. The pill form is normally taken once per day; for the liquid form, follow the instructions on the bottle.
    • Another option is to consume more fermented foods such as Kombucha or sauerkraut, which offer the benefit of "good bacteria" without having to take probiotic supplements.
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    Inquire about hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is another proven method of coping with IBS and reducing stress.[22] The hypnotherapist gives the patient methods of coping. In some studies, people with IBS had a 52% improvement of their symptoms after 12 weeks of hypnotherapy. [23][24]
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    Opt for acupuncture. Acupuncture may help to ease symptoms and to reduce stress. Certain acupuncture points along the meridians of the stomach and large intestine are selected, causing IBS symptoms to diminish or even disappear in some cases.[25]
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    Try peppermint. Peppermint may offer some relief from IBS symptoms. It is a natural antispasmodic that relaxes the muscles in the intestines and may relieve diarrhea and pain.[26] Study results have been inconsistent, although some people find short-term relief. If you'd like to try peppermint, be sure to use enteric-coated capsules (otherwise it may worsen heartburn).[27]
    • One option is to take "enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules."[28] These are specifically designed in a capsule so that they do not dissolve in the stomach (which could lead to symptoms of heartburn), but rather, travel into the intestines before dissolving and having their antispasmodic effect.
    • Taking a enteric-coated peppermint oil pill before each big meal has been shown in clinical trials to be helpful for patients suffering of IBS.

Method 4
Understanding Your Disease

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    Learn about IBS.[29] IBS is a chronic condition consisting of abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits (diarrhea and/or constipation). It may or may not be associated with certain "triggers," and there is no identifiable medical cause. Treatment is based primarily on symptom management, as well as lifestyle modification to reduce exposure to any "triggers" that you identify.
    • Be aware that there are other diseases and conditions which have symptoms similar to IBS. It is important you speak with your primary healthcare physician to make sure you have an accurate diagnosis. Things that may have similar symptoms as IBS include Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, lactose intolerance, thyroid disease, abuse of laxatives, gallstones, diverticulitis, and more.[30]
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    Know that you are not alone. IBS is extremely common and it is the second most prevalent reason for being absent from work (second only to the common cold).[31] Approximately 10–20% of the population experience IBS symptoms; of those people, an estimated 15% seek professional medical help and treatments as a way to manage their symptoms.
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    Keep a journal to track your symptoms and triggers.[32] Record the time and location of symptoms like stomach pain, discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Also include what you were doing, how you were feeling, and what type of food or medication you consumed. All of this information may help you and your doctor to determine what triggers your IBS.[33] This, in turn, can help you to better manage and live with IBS with minimal impact on your daily life.
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    Join a support group that will help you to understand the disease. Look for a support group in your area for people with IBS or other digestive disorders. The members understand what it's like to live with the condition and can offer information and support. Try the IBS Self-Help and Support Group at, or the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders at 888-964-2001.[34]

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Categories: Health Hygiene