Tip of the Day
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a disease; it is a group of symptoms that occur together that affect the large intestine. One in five Americans and twice as many women as men experience symptoms of IBS. Though no specific cause is known, several factors may contribute to IBS, including heredity, lifestyle, allergies, an infection or an abnormally large number of bacteria growing in the intestine.
The best way to manage IBS is to understand what may cause episodes of discomfort and then work to eliminate or minimize them. While medication, stress management and supplements can help, the focus should be on diet and eating habits.
- Establish Regular Eating Habits. Eating at regular times helps regulate your bowels.
- Eat Small, Frequent Meals Instead of Large Ones. This will ease the amount of food moving through your intestinal tract.
- Eat Fiber-Rich Foods. Try whole fruits, vegetables (including beans) and whole grains like rolled oats, brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Make changes slowly. Fiber helps move food through your intestine, but it takes time for your body to adjust to eating more. Adding too much fiber too quickly may result in gas, bloating and cramping.
- Drink Enough Fluids. Fiber draws water from your body to move foods through your intestine. Without enough water and fluids you may become constipated.
- Watch What You Drink. Alcohol and caffeine can stimulate your intestines and cause diarrhea. Artificial sweeteners that contain sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol may cause diarrhea too. Carbonated drinks can produce gas.
- Identify Problem Foods and Eating Habits. Keeping a food diary during flare-ups can help you figure out what you may be eating that's causing a problem.
For help addressing your irritable bowel syndrome, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area and visit our Irritable Bowel Syndrome page.
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Reviewed February 2013