Not the most comfortable subject, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is actually more common than you might think. It affects about one in ten adults around the world. It can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel movements.
It’s important to remember that everybody experiences these symptoms from time to time. We don’t always like to talk about it, even with our doctors, but it’s a fact of life, especially in today’s world. Stress, processed and fast food, gigantic portions, and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to irregularity in our digestive system.
What to do about it
Sometimes, you may feel better just by living healthier: eating more fruits and vegetables (i.e. soluble fiber), exercising a few days a week, committing to smaller portion sizes, avoiding or relieving stress, and choosing to cook at home more often instead of eating out. If such changes don’t help as much as you expect, it may be time to ask your doctor about your symptoms.
Your physician can diagnose IBS by discussing your symptoms, doing physical exams and tests, and they may also run some additional tests to rule out other issues and diseases.
While there’s no “cure” for IBS, there are plenty of ways you can treat it to relieve symptoms. A change in diet can help: adding more fiber (but not too much! it can cause diarrhea) will help keep your digestive system more consistent. And, the big underlying cause in many of today’s health woes, stress, can also be contributing to IBS symptoms. If that’s the case, practicing stress relief techniques like meditation or even regular exercise may help.
Depending on the severity of IBS symptoms and your body’s response to a change in diet, stress relief, and exercise, your doctor may also recommend medication to relieve IBS.
Abdominal discomfort and digestive issues are uncomfortable, disruptive, and they can even be pretty painful sometimes. If you experience symptoms of IBS on a regular basis, it might be worth your health to talk to your doctor about it.
Learn more about IBS and other gastrointestinal issues on the website for the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.