How to Handle IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that plagues many people, causing digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and more. When IBS flares, it can interrupt an individual’s life on a regular basis. Its important to understand the symptoms of IBS, determine if a medical evaluation s needed, and manage the condition.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The cause of IBS is not known, though there are several theories. Diagnosis occurs when an individual has experienced a series of symptoms that have been present for six months or more and have occurred three times per month for three months consecutively. Though some symptoms vary, abdominal pain or discomfort is present in every case of IBS. The condition can cause constipation, diarrhea, or both, along with gas and bloating. In most instances, individuals with IBS experience changes in frequency and form of stool as well as the relief of abdominal pain following a bowel movement.

Tracking IBS Symptoms

If, based on these symptoms, you believe you may have IBS, you should see your physician, who can evaluate you and give you the proper diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend that you track your symptoms along with frequency and intensity. Because specific foods and situations can trigger a flare of IBS symptoms, journaling is recommended to determine your personal triggers and how to best avoid them.

When journaling, you will want to note your specific symptoms, as well as the time and where you were when you experienced your discomfort – abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation. Write down how you were feeling, what you were doing, and any foods, drinks, or medications you had taken when your symptoms occurred.

Foods are often a significant trigger, causing bloating and gas. If foods are the trigger in your IBS, dietary changes can help, lessening or alleviating symptoms. Stress is another common IBS trigger, so reducing stress is important in controlling IBS symptoms. Other treatments can include medications, stress management, alternative medicine, or behavioral therapy.

Managing IBS

Managing or coping with your IBS can be challenging because there is currently no cure for the disorder. Learning as much as you can about IBS and the foods or situations that trigger flare-up can help. It is important to discuss IBS with your personal physician, asking questions, so that you can get the answers needed to handle your condition effectively.  You can also find information about IBS in books, pamphlets, and internet sources recommended by your doctor.

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk about IBS

It is important to know that you aren’t alone. Trusted friends and family can offer you support and the more they understand IBS, the more support they can offer you in dealing with the disorder. A trustworthy supervisor at work or teacher at school can also be a great support when your symptoms flare up unexpectedly. Again, the more they know about IBS, and your lack of control over it, the better equipped they will be to help you, and in addition, they will appreciate your honesty. Of course, at work or school this may mean bringing in educational materials, as well as a statement from your doctor, along with an explanation of how you manage your illness.

Finding Support

Even with the support of family and friends, you may feel you need more. Support is available through IBS support groups as well as medical professionals – dieticians, therapists, doctors, nurses, etc. – who specialize in IBS. If you aren’t sure where to begin, ask your doctor to direct you to a helpful and trusted source of support.

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