Do you suffer from recurrent stomach pain accompanied with diarrhoea or constipation? You are not alone. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS) affects 10-20% of the people in our country. Women make up 70% of that number. Doctors diagnose IBS frequently in their offices. But what are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?

One of the most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is frequent stomach pain in combination with explosive diarrhoea or loose bowel movements. Your symptoms may be mild or severe and usually alternate between the two from day to day.

Another one of the more common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is chronic constipation with stomach pain or discomfort. You may also have other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as bloating, mucus in your bowel movement, or feeling that you have not finished your bowel movement. Still more symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are gas, a strong urge to have a bowel movement and mucus in your stool.

Frequently the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome alternate, but you usually have one symptom more predominantly than the other. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome occur with no warning or reason. Therefore you need to learn what can cause your IBS to flare up.

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may worsen when you are stressed, do not eat healthy foods, or after eating a big meal. Some women experience more frequent symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome during their menstrual periods.

How do you learn to live with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome? You try and learn what foods cause you to experience your symptoms. It is suggested that your fat intake has a big impact on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Try to cut back on high fat intake and begin making a diary of what you eat and how much and write down when you have one of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. This will help you pinpoint what triggers your symptoms. Then you can learn how to keep it from happening as often. There is no cure for IBS but you can learn to live with the symptoms and spread out the attacks.

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can definitely be a nuisance and annoying but you can learn to deal with this. If you take the time to find your triggers you can help yourself to not have as many attacks. So equip yourself with knowledge and take back control!

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet

An important factor in gaining control over irritable bowel syndrome is to realize that everything you place in your mouth is going to affect the way you feel. Simply put, the food you eat and beverages you drink will either make your irritable bowel symptoms better or worse. In order to better understand how foods are connected to irritable bowel syndrome, let’s first take a look at the digestive process.

Normally, when food enters the stomach a series of physiological reflexes are set in motion. The act of chewing ignites production of saliva. Saliva contains enzymes which soften food into a bolus (semi-solid lump) that can be swallowed. Swallowing food triggers the gastrocolic reflex, which instructs the colon to start contracting. These contractions send signals to the esophagus, instructing it to propel food through the digestive tract, where it will eventually be expelled through the colon. It’s quite an intricate system, wouldn’t you agree?

Research has shown that people with irritable bowel syndrome do not have a normal gastrocolic reflex response. It’s similar to plumbing in your home — when the system is faulty, things can get ugly. Just as there are certain things you wouldn’t flush down your toilet or pour down your sink; there are certain foods that can wreak havoc on your personal plumbing.

Gastrointestinal stimulants and gastrointestinal irritants can wreak havoc on the personal plumbing of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. Stimulants include caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Irritants include foods that are high in fat, eggs, dairy products, spicy foods, insoluble fiber, artificial sweeteners, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

These foods are known to place an additional strain on the digestive system of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome []. They are also known to be powerful irritable bowel syndrome triggers. Therefore, you will want to strictly limit or eliminate these foods from your diet.

Fat stimulates the digestive tract more than any other food. Generally, foods containing high amounts of fat only provide a small amount of nutrients, but a lot of calories. Foods that are high in fats include:

  • Meat fat from red meat, poultry skin, sausages and bacon
  • Dairy fat from cheese, milk, cream, ice cream, yogurt
  • Eggs, margarine, and commercial baked goods; i.e.; biscuits, cakes and pastries

Meat fats are particularly troublesome for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. Prepared meats oftentimes use preservatives known as nitrates. Others contain high levels of sodium and monosodium glutamate (MSG); a known trigger of IBS. Red meat is known to promote cytokine production; which, in turn triggers inflammation throughout the body.

Dairy products contain casein, a milk protein. Casein is known to aggravate asthma and promote cytokine production. When the protein of another animal is introduced into the human body, the immune system responds with an allergic reaction. Additionally, many people are lactose intolerant and unable to digest lactose — the sugar found in milk and foods made with milk. If lactose is not digested, it can cause gas and stomach cramps.

Both dairy products and egg yolks are high in arachidonic acid. This is the same substance that makes meats so inflammatory. If you are going to eat eggs, you should only eat the whites. On a food label, eggs can be listed as albumin, globulin, ovamucin, or vitellin.

Some people with irritable bowel syndrome have trouble tolerating certain spices and spicy condiments. These include hot sauces, spicy BBQ sauces, chili peppers and powders, garlic, curry and ginger. Many commercial condiments, marinades and salad dressing contain hydrogenated fat and monosodium glutamate. Some holistic practitioners recommend using fresh garlic and ginger to treat irritable bowel syndrome, but recommend avoiding the powdered versions. You may need to experiment to determine if spices affect your IBS symptoms.

While most irritable bowel syndrome diets [] recommend increasing fiber intake, it’s important to realize there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is “rough” and does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber is “smooth” and soothing to the digestive tract.

Soluble fiber foods can be very soothing for IBS symptoms. Foods that are naturally high in soluble fiber include: oatmeal, oat bran, rice, potatoes, pasta, nuts, beans, barley and soy.

Insoluble fiber may trigger severe attacks of pain and diarrhea in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore, it should be introduced slowly and closely monitored. Sources of insoluble fiber include whole-grain breads and cereals, wheat bran, and the skins of fruits and vegetables.

In the United States, five artificially derived sugar substitutes have been approved for use. They are: aspartame, Sucralose (also known as Splenda), Acesulfame K, neotame and saccharin. Artificial sweeteners can trigger pain, cramps, gas, bloating, and diarrhea in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. If you have IBS, you should avoid all artificial sweeteners.

Monosodium glutamate or MSG is an additive used to enhance the flavor of foods. MSG has no flavor or nutritional value. It neurologically causes people to think food containing MSG is more flavorful than it actually is. Additionally, there is much evidence connecting MSG to all sorts of digestive problems.

For most, it is nearly impossible to alter their entire diet. Experts recommend keeping a food journal to help you identify triggers of irritable bowel symptoms. Take baby steps and eliminate the worst offenders first. As you track the information, you will be better able to determine the best irritable bowel syndrome diet for you.

The Signs and Symptom

You may find many people experiencing a symptom for irritable bowel syndrome feel depressed about it. Although IBS is considered a “syndrome” meaning that there are a number of signs and symptoms that characterize the condition, many people can suffer with some of the same signs and symptoms and not have IBS.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition, which reduces the quality of life. It can effect people physically and psychologically, and dictate many of ways someone has to conduct their life as the symptoms can be sudden.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder of the lower digestive tract that is characterized by a mixture of symptoms. The symptoms for irritable bowel syndrome may differ from person to person. However the main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and abnormal bowel habits such as diarrhea and constipation.

It has been observed that any one symptom typically predominates in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

Many patients’ report of diarrhea being the chief complaint during an irritable bowel attack. Such patients feel a strong need to relieve themselves many times throughout the day and they pass loose, watery stools.

Patients suffering from constipation may have fewer than three bowel movements a week. Some patients of irritable bowel syndrome experience alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Some patients feel as if they are not able to void completely. They may also experience bloating and pass excessive amounts of gas.

The majority of patients never bother to seek help from a doctor and simply endure their symptoms. Some others feel reluctant to leave home during an attack because of pain or the urgency to have bowel movement.

In people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, the muscles of the bowel wall go into spasm. In a normal person, regular contractions of the muscles in the wall of the digestive track propel the contents forward. In IBS patients, the muscle spasms hinder this smooth movement resulting in diarrhea or constipation.

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While factors such as diet and stress can trigger the muscle spasms, it is thought that one of the main possible causes of IBS appears to be the way the brain and bowel communicate. Some researches have indicated that patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome have a more heightened awareness of pain in their digestive systems than people without irritable bowel syndrome do. This hypersensitivity is considered to trigger the intestinal spasms, and is the basis of abdominal pain/discomfort.

In order to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome in a patient, a physician needs to rule out other possible diseases. A physician performs physical examination of the patient and goes through the medical history of the patient.

The physician will ask questions about the symptoms and then may suggest laboratory tests. These tests help in ruling out other diseases and may include complete blood count (CBC), thyroid function, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and urinalysis.

Depending on symptoms, physician may also recommend additional tests such as lactose tolerance test and a check for the presence of blood, bacteria, and parasites in feces. If the laboratory tests and physical exam do not suggest any other disease, the physician may diagnose irritable bowel syndrome in the patient.

IBS is not very well understood and very few drugs show consistent results. Many patients of IBS are often switched from drug to drug to control the abnormal bowel habits including antidepressants or medications that affect serotonin receptors.

However, for most patients, the best therapy is natural, based on dietary supplements that encourage healthy digestion. Also lifestyle changes can bring each symptom for irritable bowel syndrome under control.