Q: What can I do to control irritable bowel syndrome? – L. K.
A: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation. These episodes are often brought on with stress, depression, anxiety or infection.
Besides relaxing and avoiding stress, you can also try to control your irritable bowel syndrome through diet. Here are some suggestions:
- Limit or eliminate foods that may make diarrhea, gas and bloating worse. These may include caffeine, alcohol, carbonated (fizzy) drinks, milk products, foods high in sugar, fatty foods, gas-producing foods (such as beans, cabbage and broccoli), and the artificial sweeteners sorbitol and xylitol (often used in sugarless gum and sugarless candy).
- To reduce constipation, add more fiber to your diet, drink plenty of water and get regular exercise.
- Keep a daily diary of what you eat and whether you have symptoms after eating.
- Eat slowly and have meals in a quiet, relaxing environment.
- Don’t skip meals.
*Please Note*: Add foods with fiber to your diet a little at a time to let your body get used to them. Too much fiber at once can cause gas, which can trigger symptoms in people with IBS. Adding fiber to your diet slowly, by 2 to 3 grams a day, may help prevent gas and bloating.
If you are 35 or older, consider taking supplemental digestive enzymes. Since aging tends to diminish our digestive enzymes, taking a them as a supplement helps the body break down foods into compounds that make nutrients easier to digest, and also work to decrease the number of colonized microorganisms in the stomach. Other digestive aids Dr. Rubman prescribes for his patients include hydrochloric acid supplements, which act as a tonic to the upper GI tract, soothing inflammation and allowing for restoration of normal function and cellular health. (Note: As always, it is important to consult a qualified expert to determine which supplements are appropriate for you, and to provide oversight for your health and safety.)