Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
As many as 1 in 5 American adults has symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), an intestinal disorder of both the large and small intestine. There are over 200,000 cases a year of IBS in the United States alone, meaning that many people are currently living with this chronic and unpredictable condition. IBS can cause pain in the stomach, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. While some people suffer from multiple symptoms, others may suffer from just one. IBS does not harm the intestines, but it can cause a great deal of discomfort and affect the quality of life for anyone dealing with the condition.
IBS affects twice as many women as men and usually begins by early adulthood. The exact cause of IBS is unknown. The real danger of IBS is that many of its symptoms overlap with more potentially serious GI problems like colitis or celiac disease. However, here at Greater Boston Gastroenterology, we have the experience and know-how to run the correct tests to rule out these other conditions and help with ways to manage your symptoms.
There are some lifestyle changes that many patients find helpful. A simple change in diet—adding fiber or avoiding creamy foods—may go a long way. After talking to a GI specialist, you may be advised to try a low FODMAP diet. This diet is low in fat, high in protein and low in fermentable carbohydrates such as fructose and lactose. FODMAPs are found in certain grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products. By removing these trigger foods from your diet, you may be able to discover which foods worsen your condition. Other lifestyle changes such as stress reduction, regular exercise, adding a probiotic or staying well-hydrated also greatly relieve symptoms in many patients. There are now specific medications for diarrhea or constipation predominant IBS that can be extremely effective in managing symptoms and improving quality of life.
If you are suffering from the symptoms of IBS, it is important to see a GI specialist, and discuss all of the many options available to help tailor a program to keep you as symptom-free as possible.