What is IBS? | A Dietitian Explains
Hey All. I’m SO excited. I have a dietetic intern with me – and she’s kind of awesome. Meet Danielle – she is tasked with creating some seriously awesome, practical resources for my IBS clients. Today she’s going to break down ‘What is IBS’ for you!
Let’s Talk about IBS.
Do you feel as if your bowels are taking you on a never-ending roller coaster ride? Have you ever skipped a meal to avoid your burdening bowel symptoms? Do you find that your daily activities revolve around the bathroom? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
What is irritable bowel syndrome, you say?
Let me start you off with a bit of background on the matter.
You may recognize it in its short form as IBS. IBS is a functional gut disorder, meaning that your digestive system is not working the way it’s supposed to. Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world. Approximately, 5 million Canadians have IBS and another 120, 000 Canadians develop IBS every year.1
IBS is one of those health problems that many people have, but few tend to talk about, so keep in mind that it is not as uncommon as you may think.
Common symptoms of IBS
Some common symptoms of IBS include bloating, gas, stomach pain, constipation, urgency, diarrhea or all of the above, which can be recurring and persistent. These symptoms differ per individual and they may even change over time for each individual.
If at any point reading through that list, you were like “Hey, that’s totally me!”, consult your family doctor, or consider speaking with a registered dietitian.
What causes IBS?
The jury is still out on the exact cause of IBS. Research suggests that family history of IBS, other digestive disorders, previous gut infections, dietary pattern, stressful events, and imbalance of gut bacteria may contribute to development. There is emerging research centered around the gut microbiota and our overall health—who’d a thunk?
When we talk about the gut microbiota, we’re focusing in on the good and the bad bacteria. When it comes to our health, and especially our gut health, the good bacteria are the star players. In order for them to help us, we need to help them first. These good bacteria seem to do best when we provide them with proper fuel— like fibre.
Some foods, like certain types of carbohydrates, feed the bacteria in our gut which can cause the bloating and gassiness that you may feel. These bacteria get excited and are going to town and fermenting these carbs, which can result in these uncomfortable IBS symptoms.
There are no perfect tests when it comes to diagnosing someone with IBS, so unlike other health problems, the symptoms are used to diagnose rather than test results. That’s not to say that tests won’t be run by your physician, as these can help rule out other potential health issues.
What can I do to manage my IBS?
IBS can really put a damper on activities in your daily life, like going to work, travelling or even eating!
Stress can definitely be a contributor to the symptoms of IBS. It’s important to identify the possible stress triggers to help with your mental health overall as well as your symptoms. These days, we are always on the go, with demands pulling us in a hundred different directions. As hard as it may be, it is important to make time for ourselves, exercise, do things we enjoy and get a good night’s rest!
Some people find that there are certain foods that may trigger their symptoms. The low FODMAP diet is strongly supported by research as a means to help reduce your symptoms.
What on earth is a FODMAP?
FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. This acronym refers to a group of carbohydrates which can be poorly digested in our gut, and for some people, cause unpleasant IBS symptoms.
Following the low FODMAP diet reduces the total amount of these fermentable carbohydrates you consume at a time.
Think about your FODMAP threshold like a bucket. The size of the bucket differs between individuals – some buckets are smaller and some are larger. For those who have a larger bucket, they can eat foods containing FODMAPs freely and comfortably. For those who have a smaller bucket, their threshold to high FODMAP foods is lower, so if you overfill your bucket, you can experience IBS symptoms.
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What foods contain FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are prevalent in a lot of foods (both healthy and not) that we eat and are available to us, so to follow a low FODMAP diet can be quite restrictive. To ensure you also meet your nutritional needs, consult a registered dietitian who will help you to safely follow the low FODMAP diet.
It is important to know that food can contribute to IBS symptoms. The low FODMAP should be thought of as a tool to help manage your IBS symptoms. This diet starts with a period of restriction and followed by a reintroduction phase. Proper reintroduction and a balanced, healthy diet is KEY to long term gut health. Your registered dietitian will help you through this process!
IBS does not define you, even though at times you may feel it is controlling your life. With proper management, symptoms can be controlled, and improve your quality of life. With the support of your physician and registered dietitian, IBS can be managed—and managed in a way that promotes long term health and nutrition.
If you’re ready to see a dietitian – be sure to check out more about the IBS diet, and what Ignite Nutrition can do for you!
1 Retrieved from: http://www.cdhf.ca/en/statistics#16 (September 30th, 2016)