Identifying IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, known more commonly as IBS, is a digestive system issue faced by a number of people on a daily basis. IBS causes a variety of discomfort and often interrupts daily life for sufferers. From a churning stomach to cramps, diarrhea to constipation, gas to bloating, the most common symptoms of IBS make if difficult to diagnose. If you suspect IBS, a medical evaluation is in order, so a plan of treatment can begin.

IBS Symptoms

The most common symptoms – stomach ache, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, constipation – don’t simply come and go for an IBS sufferer. An individual with IBS often experiences symptoms for six months or more, often occurring multiple times per month. One frequent symptom of IBS, which is found in nearly everyone diagnosed with the disease, is abdominal pain alleviated following a bowel movement. IBS can also cause diarrhea, constipation, or both, along with other symptoms.

IBS not only causes symptoms in the gut, but recent studies have found links between IBS and these food sensitivity symptoms: coughing, sneezing, asthma, ear infections, bronchitis, and other infections including mouth ulcers and yeast infections; headaches, migraines, and memory issues; rosacea dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis; weight gain or loss; arthritis, joint and muscle pain; fatigue, anemia, and vitamin deficiency; along with all the common gastrointestinal symptoms. As a result, one of the best ways to control IBS is to track how you feel and what you eat via journaling.

Journaling with a Food Diary

Keeping a food diary or journal of what you eat and how you feel can help determine IBS food triggers. Since they aren’t the same for every sufferer, there is no single list of foods not to eat, though there are certain food groups known to trigger an IBS flare up. These trigger foods are foods to which you are sensitive.  This is known in the medical community as an intolerance (your body is unable to effectively digest the food) as opposed to an allergy in which your immune system responds to a certain food.

For someone with IBS, knowing the top trigger food groups is an important step in controlling the symptoms. For an individual with IBS, dairy, wheat (gluten), fructose, sugar, and insoluble fiber foods are the most common triggers. Avoiding everything in these food groups is not the answer, but using this list can help you narrow down your personal list of IBS trigger foods.

To find your trigger foods and help your IBS symptoms, create a food diary. In your diary (a small notebook will do), you’ll want to record what you eat, any events surrounding your meals/snacks (fatigue, tension, stress, etc.), and the IBS symptoms/discomfort (if any) which occur following those meals or snacks. Making two simple columns – one listing foods eaten and the other listing events/symptoms/discomfort – is an easy way to accomplish the task of journaling.

Treating IBS

Once you’ve recorded for several days, you’ll start looking for patterns and correlations between the foods and how you feel. You may find milk (lactose) and cheese triggers your symptoms, but yogurt doesn’t. Depending on the intolerance or sensitivity you uncover, you can adjust your diet and quickly find if your symptoms subside. Once you do, you may find you no longer need those medications you’ve been using to treat your symptoms as you have discovered and eliminated the cause.

While dietary changes are often the solution for most IBS sufferers, other treatments for IBS can include stress management, alternative medicine, and prescription medication in more difficult cases. If you think you may be suffering from IBS, call on your physician for an evaluation. He or she can help you determine the cause of your gastrointestinal condition and find the best solution.

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