Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a functional gastrointestinal disorder in which the intestinal tract does not function properly. While there is no evidence of damage in the intestines, people with IBS often experience abdominal pain and/or changes in bowel movement patterns. IBS can cause diarrhea, constipation, or a mixture of both symptoms. This disorder is considered to be a chronic illness and the symptoms can often come and go over time.
It is currently unknown what causes IBS, though many of the contributing problems include abnormal movement of the intestines, changes in the signals between the gut and the brain, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, and genetics. Signs of IBS can include bloating and gas, constipation, diarrhea, mucus-covered stools, pain and cramping, feeling like you still need to have a bowel movement after you’ve already had one, and feeling a strong urge to have a bowel movement.
IBS can be diagnosed by a doctor through a physical exam and tests. It is important to see a doctor if you experience symptoms of IBS or changes in bowel function as these can be symptoms of more serious conditions.
If you have IBS, working closely with your doctor or registered dietitian and keeping a close record of foods that aggravate symptoms is imperative to maintain good nutrition. Under supervision, adopting certain dietary patterns, such as the FODMAP diet, can help manage this disorder. Other things that can help alleviate symptoms include consuming more water and fiber (which should be increased gradually) while avoiding high-fat foods and food that can cause gas (such as beans and cabbage).
More information on eating, diet, and nutrition for IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases
Intro to IBS – International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – American College of Gastroenterology
Nutrition and Recipe Ideas to Manage IBS:
Kate Scarlata, RDN - www.katescarlata.com
1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/Pages/overview.aspx. Accessed August 12, 2015.