Irritable Bowel Syndrome or as it’s commonly known, IBS is a debilitating illness that is suffered by around 20% of the population at some point in their lives. It disproportionately affects young adults and women and is thought to be, at least partly, a consequence of the stress those groups are under in modern society.
Symptoms can range from pain or discomfort in the abdomen, loose and urgent bowel movements, constipation, nausea, altered stool consistency and abnormal frequency of bowel movements. All, some or one of these symptoms are unpleasant to live with and, in extreme cases it can become debilitating.
Treating IBS can be an uphill struggle since there is no definitive test for it. A trip to your GP is recommended to rule out other possibilities like an Inflammatory Bowel Disease like Crohn’s or Colitis. Otherwise, treatment on the NHS is patchy and tends to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. If you are lucky you might be referred to a dietician but generally, IBS sufferers are left to their own devices with a bit of advice on diet and medication to treat their particular set of ailments.
Nutritionists are often employed privately to help IBS patients overcome, or at least live with, the condition. Elimination diets have been shown to relieve a range of symptoms by removing items from the diet that are known for triggering an IBS flare up. Carbonated drinks, high fibre foods, processed foods and fatty foods have all been implicated in causing IBS so systematically removing these items will narrow down the root cause.
A FODMAP diet is also a favoured treatment. This approach excludes food groups that contain certain nutrients that are known to trigger digestive problems. Certain fermentable carbohydrates are avoided like oligosaccharides in wheat, legumes, onion and garlic, disaccharides like lactose, monosaccharides like fructose and Polyols like those found in certain fruits and artificial sweeteners.
Following these steps has been proven to alleviate the symptoms of IBS and allow sufferers to lead more normal lives.