Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects more than one in ten people. People with IBS have symptoms such as bloating, cramping, gas, abdominal pain, and either diarrhea or constipation.
What causes IBS?
The cause of IBS isn’t clear. What is known is that your stress level and the foods you eat may affect your symptoms.
What can I do to relieve IBS symptoms?
One thing you can do is to reduce your stress level. This might be tough, since IBS can be stressful itself. There are different ways to manage stress, such as through counseling or therapy.
You can also try to identify foods that make your symptoms worse. You might need to keep a food journal to do this. Avoid the problem food for about four weeks to see if you improve.
There is a theory that avoiding “FODMAPs” can improve IBS symptoms. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols. FODMAPs are carbohydrates (sugars) that are found in food with high levels of fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, or polyols. Here are some examples of FODMAPs:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Dairy products such as milk
- Some artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol or xylitol
Some people find that avoiding gluten helps with IBS, but this might be because gluten is found in wheat, which is a FODMAP. Be sure to keep a balanced diet, even if you are avoiding certain foods. A dietitian or nutritionist can help you with this.
What over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can help IBS?
For symptoms such as bloating, cramps, or pain, you can try OTC medicines. Fiber supplements such as psyllium (Metamucil, etc) might help. “Antispasmodic” medicines such as peppermint oil might also help. Probiotics work for some people. Look for one with Bifidobacterium infantis (Align, VSL#3, etc). These seem best for IBS.
If you have severe constipation, you can try a laxative such as polyethylene glycol (PEG, Miralax, etc). If you have diarrhea, loperamide (Imodium, etc) might help.
Ask your prescriber or pharmacist to recommend specific medicines and doses you should take.
Are there prescription medicines that help IBS?
Your prescriber may write a prescription for a medicine if your IBS symptoms are severe, or if other strategies don’t help.
If you have any “alarm” symptoms such as fever, blood in your stool, weight loss, or belly pain that doesn’t go away, be sure to contact your prescriber.
Content taken from Pharmacist’s Letter.