Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by persistent abdominal pain/discomfort, bloating, and irregularity. Clinical tests typically yield no abnormalities. The exact cause of IBS is not known. IBS is diagnosed by exclusion, which means that, it’s the fall back diagnosis that doctors use when they are unable to find something that is wrong. Since it is a diagnosis of absence, doctors really don’t know the cause. It’s generally broken down into three classes depending upon if diarrhea is dominate (IBS-D), constipation is dominate (IBS-C), or if it alternates (IBS-A). Onset of IBS tends to occur most often after an infection (IBS-PI), a stressful life event, or as a person ages. The most common theory is, there is a problem with the central nervous system and the digestive system. Another theory suggests an imbalance in gut bacteria or a malfunction in the immune system. IBS has no effect on mortality. However, it does have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.
Although the cause of IBS is unknown, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics does provide some guidance on how to prevent or manage symptoms:
Eat fewer, smaller meals more frequently during the day. Less volume puts less stress on the system, and frequency ensures a constant flow.
Add more fiber to your diet. Fiber provides bulk to your digestion, and it may help increase your regularity. Foods rich in fiber are fruits (with skin), vegetables (with skin), and whole grains.
Drink plenty of fluids. This is good advice for either IBS D or IBS C. With IBS D, you need to replace the fluid lost for diarrhea, and with IBS C, increased water content may help the stool pass more easily.
Avoid alcohol & caffeine. Caffeine can act as a diuretic causing your system to speed up. Alcohol can affect you digestive system as well. If you are already having issues, you should probably avoid both.
Keep track of your episodes and symptoms to see if there are any triggers.
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