Managing irritable bowel syndrome

ibsIt’s a disorder that affects as many as 45 million Americans, and its symptoms might be a source of embarrassment for those experiencing them.


Irritable bowel syndrome – and the uncomfortable abdominal pain, gas and chronic diarrhea or constipation that goes with it – can be a mild inconvenience or a severe impediment to daily life, affecting an individual’s social and professional habits. Two out of every three people with IBS symptoms are female, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.


While the root cause of IBS isn’t known and a cure doesn’t exist, experts believe that poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the gut are to blame, along with abnormalities in the gastrointestinal nervous system. A family history of IBS may increase the risk of symptoms, which can affect each person differently.


Expects say emotional stress can aggravate symptoms, but stress alone doesn’t cause IBS. Hormonal changes and reactions to certain types of foods or beverages also play a role in the severity or frequency of symptoms.


A gastroenterologist can help with the management of IBS symptoms and can recommend prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs. Those experiencing discomfort may the reduce the severity of symptoms by:


–Slowly increasing the amount of soluble fiber in your daily diet.  Digestible fiber promotes regular bowel movements, and reduces constipation. Soluble fibers are commonly found in oats and beans.


On the other hand, insoluble fiber – which is found in cabbage, lettuce, onions and peppers — may increase symptoms, so pay attention to which fruits and vegetables precede discomfort.


–Reduce the consumption of caffeine and alcohol, known triggers of IBS symptoms. Spicy meals, rich dairy products and foods that are high in fat can also trigger irregular bowel movements.


–Keep track of the type of symptoms you’re experiencing, how long they last and any triggers that may associated with them, including sources of emotional stress. Also, note any medications or supplements you’ve been taking.


It’s worth noting that physicians recommend those with IBS symptoms get checked for Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that’s triggered by the consumption of gluten – a protein typically found in wheat and grains.


Gastroenterologists Brent M. Meyers M.D., Evelyn R. Kessel M.D. and Irma Cruz M.D. in Fort Meyers and Cape Coral are members of the Independent Physicians Association of Lee County, a network of independent physicians committed to maintaining high-quality medical care in southwest Florida. For help selecting an independent physician or for more information on the IPALC, call 239-314-0791 or visit


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