Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the lower portion of the intestines Diagnosis of IBS is a process of elimination Physicians use the Rome criteria to assist in the process The criteria includes specific signs and symptoms The most important symptoms are abdominal pain and discomfort which lasts at least 12 weeks. The weeks do not have to occur consecutively At least two of the following symptoms must be present: a change in the frequency and consistency of bowel movements, straining, urgency, or a feeling of incomplete evacuation of stool, mucus in the stool, and bloating or abdominal distention.In most cases, mild symptoms of IBS can be controlled by managing stress and changes in diet and lifestyle.
Drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily is important. Alcohol and beverages which contain caffeine act as intestinal stimulants and can aggravate diarrhea. Carbonated beverages can increase gas production.
Certain foods cause reactions in the gastrointestinal tract. Eating too much of these foods,such as fried foods and foods which are high in fat, may worsen the symptoms of abdominal cramping and diarrhea for someone with IBS. Generally,dietary fiber relieves constipation but may not decrease pain or diarrhea. Usually, physicians will recommend a diet with enough fiber to produce soft and painless bowel movements. Sorbitol and fructose are two examples of sweeteners which are poorly absorbed by the bowel. Consuming too much of certain sugars can cause cramping and diarrhea. Foods such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli produce gas. Limiting the intake of gas producing foods can control the IBS symptoms of gas retention and bloating.
Diet management is unique to each person with IBS. Patients need to communicate with their health care professional to insure that proper guidance is obtained. Keeping a diary for two to three weeks is useful. It is important to note daily dietary intake and IBS symptoms experienced. Make note of medications taken, stress factors experienced, and disturbances in sleep patterns. Adjusting one's diet and reducing the intake of offending foods may help in the management of IBS symptoms.