Irritable Bowel Syndrome

by in Digestion, Irritable Bowel Syndrome January 11, 2008

PhotobucketIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder in which the large intestine or colon, fails to function properly.
IBS has characteristic symptoms that can include a combination of any of the following:
Abdominal pain and distension; more frequent bowel movements with pain or relief of pain with bowel movements; constipation; diarrhea; excessive production of mucus in the colon; symptoms of indigestion such as flatulence, nausea, or anorexia; and varying degrees of anxiety or depression.
The causes for IBS are not completely clear; physical and emotional issues, as well as dietary factors or irritants have all been linked to this condition. Possible treatment considerations for IBS include increasing dietary fiber, eliminating allergic/intolerant foods, addressing the possible contribution of emotional components, and incorporating nutritional therapies. In many cases, IBS can be controlled by managing diet, lifestyle and stress.
Nutrition Guidelines

  • Eat at regular times. Try not to skip meals or go long periods of time without food. The emptier your stomach, the more sensitive it may be.
  • Try to limit “stand-up, eat-on-the-run” type meals.
  • Chew thoroughly and eat at a leisurely pace – if you must eat in a hurry, only eat a small amount at a time.
  • Eat a balanced and varied diet.
  • Gradually increase your intake of fiber.
  • When your stomach is empty, eat soluble fiber foods first. Make soluble fiber foods a large component of each meal (see fiber sources below).
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water (at least 6 – 8 glasses a day).
  • Eliminate all red meat, dairy, fried foods, egg yolks, coffee, soda, and alcohol from the diet. These are the most common triggers of IBS.
  • Limit foods that you are sensitive to or do not tolerate well. Possibilites include dairy products, chocolate, eggs, and wheat products.
  • Limit foods high in fat. If you know you will be having high-fat foods, eat a source of soluble fiber first – never eat high fat foods on an empty stomach.
  • Eat green salads at the end of the meal (small portions with non-fat dressing).
  • Fibers are substances in plant foods that we do not digest and are useful in normalizing bowel function. The two main types of fiber are soluble and insoluble fiber.
  • Soluble fibers are commonly found in fruits (especially pears, apples, and citrus), oats, barley and legumes. These water-soluble fibers form gels that provide beneficial effects.
  • Insoluble fibers are commonly found in wheat bran, corn bran, whole grain breads and cereals, as well as vegetables. Insoluble fiber has the effect of preventing constipation.

Fiber functions like a sponge by attracting water into the digestive tract, softening stools and preventing constipation. On the flip side, fiber is also useful for adding bulk to the stool which is helpful when diarrhea is present.
Bitter foods can improve the whole upper digestive system’s function and enhance the absorption of nutrients. Try adding some bitters to meals, which include chicory, endive, radicchio, and dandelion greens.
Herbal and Nutritional Supplements have been shown in research studies to be helpful in the treatment of IBS.

  • Enteric coated peppermint oil capsules are used to inhibit intestinal contractions and relieve abdominal pain and gas.
  • Chamomile and valerian aid in decreasing gas.
  • Slippery elm soothes the intestinal lining and decreases inflammation.
  • Lemon balm decreases intestinal cramping and spasms.
  • Nutritional supplements such as glutamine, beta-carotene, and zinc aid in the healing of the intestinal lining.

Food allergies and intolerances have often been linked to the symptoms experienced by patients with IBS. Roughly two thirds of patients have some type of food intolerance or allergy. Therefore, it is imperative that patients address these causes and eliminate the offending agents. Talk to your nutritionist about identifying potential food allergens through a process known as “the elimination diet.”
PhotobucketLifestyle Guidelines

  • Exercise regularly – 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise every day.
  • Daily practice of yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation can significantly reduce stress-related symptoms.
  • Pay attention to your body’s signals. When you feel the urge to move your bowels, take the time to do so.
  • Make sleep a priority – inadequate sleep reduces the body’s ability to manage stress effectively.

Emotional Components such as depression, insomnia, fatigue, and anxiety are often associated with IBS sufferers. Increased contractions of the colon have been shown to occur in patients with IBS in response to stressful situations, which can lead to uncomforatble symptoms.
Various methods of treatment that may be helpful to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue include biofeedback, individual counseling, guided imagery, and physical activity. If necessary, seek the help of a professional to manage stress or other emotional factors.
It is important to determine the cause of any intestinal complaint; therefore infectious or other causes of bowel symptoms must be ruled out prior to diagnosis of IBS. Once a diagnosis of IBS has been made, know that stress and emotional factors weigh heavily in the equation and should be addressed as part of treatment.
IBS Resources
Eating for IBS
IBS Self Help Group
Eating for IBS: 175 Delicious, Nutritious, Low-Fat, Low-Residue Recipes to Stabilize the Touchiest Tummy, by Heather Van Vorous. Marlowe & Co., 2000.
Be Good to Your Gut: Recipes & Tips for People with Digestive Problems, by Pat Baird, MA, RD. Blackwell Science, Inc., 1996.
Eating for IBS
Dr. Michael T. Murray Online
Mayo Clinic
“IBS: Suffering in Silence” by Krista Fuller. Today’s Dietitian, February 2003.

  1. high fiber diet for ibs…
    I loved New Self-Paced Online Media Conversion Training!…

  2. I have read many of your articles on various diets/ info for IBS, gallbladder, immune system and have a question. I was recently diagnosed with gastroparesis and have IBS and my gallbladder is not functioning effectively. Do you have any information/ suggestions on sepcific diet/ foods to avoid or recommend to eat? I know things are complicated with each of these diagnosis and would appreciate any of your suggestions.
    Thank you.

  3. One thing that helped my IBS-D was following the protocol in the book “Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia” by Dr Rodger Murphree. For IBS, He recommends taking divided doses, of 300mg/day of 5-HTP for two weeks. He said that there are as many nerve endings in your gut as are in your brain and taking 5-HTP which supplies serotonin helps with this.

  4. My daughter was diagnosed almost 10 years ago with Crohn’s and we we didn’t know what to do! A friend brought us the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gotschall and said “there’s hope in this book.” My daughter read it and learned about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which totally eliminates long-chain carbs from the diet. By doing this, you’re removing the thing that the bad stuff feeds on, so your symptoms go away. She decided to do it, with me as her support person, and has never turned back! She immediately began improving and has been medication free, symptom free and in perfect health for 9.5 +years, staying 100% on the diet, with 2 healthy pregnancies. So many people have asked us about it that we decided to write down everything we know about the diet on our website, It won’t hurt to give it a look!

  5. This is a very nicely done article about IBS. You’ve managed to put on one page what I’ve had to spend 30 or so on :).
    I came across your page while doing research on depression, anxiety, and IBS. I was also reading that antidepressants help many people with IBS symptoms.
    As an expert on naturopathic medicine, do you think that naturopathic depression treatments would help IBS?
    .-= Shawn´s last blog ..IBS Depression and Anxiety =-.

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