Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disruption of the intestinal tract. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating and abnormal bowel movements. Diarrhea may often alternate with constipation, while pain and bloating may be relieved by a bowel movement. With IBS, nerve endings in the bowel are unusually sensitive, which means even normal bowel events such as passing fluid or gas cause abnormal muscle reactions.
IBS is known as a functional disorder as there is no direct cause of the syndrome. Symptoms appear to be caused by contraction of your bowel muscles. The contraction results from increased sensitivity within the bowel to almost anything: eating, stress, emotional arousal or gaseous distension.
Approximately 10-20% of adults experience the symptoms of IBS. Its symptoms are the second most common cause of workplace absenteeism, after the common cold. Its impact differs between people because of their alternating constipation and diarrhea. However, with some simple lifestyle changes, those same people say that their lives are back to normal.
People who have had IBS often say they felt like their life revolved around the bathroom because of their alternating constipation and diarrhea. However, as mentioned previously, with some simple lifestyle changes, those same people say that their lives are back to normal.
It has been established that 10% of people who suffer from IBS get better each year. Of course, this will be affected by your lifestyle and stress levels, but you have the ability to control the symptoms of IBS.
Changing diets will help many people with IBS, but it varies from person to person. Caffeine, nicotine and/or alcohol and foods such as dietary fats should be avoided as these are common triggers of your symptoms. However, any food can trigger your IBS symptoms. Learning what is right and wrong is the best way to minimize the effects of IBS and maximize the benefits of your diet. Generally, adding bran or another natural source fibre, like the psyllium in Metamucil, to your diet can help to relieve the constipation associated with IBS.
Constipation is a frequent complaint. This can be mild (small, hard stools) to severe (no bowel movements without a laxative).
Constipation is almost always due to insufficient fibre intake because our foods are so highly refined that there is little fibre left. Our forefathers ate about 60g of fibre per day; we eat only about 13g daily. Most of us need about 20-35g per day or more. One to three soft, formed stools a day is normal.
Canada’s dietary guidelines: Recommendation of fibre intake with different ages and sexes:
|AGE IN YEARS||GOAL FOR AN INTAKE OF GRAM(g) PER DAY|
|Men 19 to 50||38|
|Men 51 and older||30|
|Women 19 to 50||25|
|Women 51 and older||21|
|Pregnant Women 19 and older||28|
|Breastfeeding Women 19 and older||29|
There are two types of fibre: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fibre is absorbed into the blood stream and is of no help to the bowel. The best source of insoluble fibre is cereal, but very few are truly high in fibre. In order to achieve better bowel habits, we suggest the following:
Always drink a glass of water whenever you have fibre. Fibre does not work without water. Coffee or juice does not help! If your bowel movements tend to become too frequent or loose, decrease the amount of fibre, as every individual’s needs are different.