Living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be, well, irritable. Symptoms can fluctuate from day to day based on a number of factors, including diet, hormonal fluctuations and stress — and can interfere with daily life.
“During flare-ups, a person with IBS can experience such severe discomfort that they may be unable to work, travel, or pursue social and physical activities,” says Dr. Anantham Reddy, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital.
Symptoms of IBS
IBS is a condition that typically causes abdominal pain and change in bowel habits. The most common recurring symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal pain
Women are more likely than men to experience IBS, and flare-ups can correlate to a woman’s menstrual cycle. Those with a family history of IBS are also at greater risk.
Self-care tips for managing IBS
While no single type of treatment for IBS works best for everyone, these self-care tips can help reduce symptoms:
- Change the foods you eat – consider a low-FODMAP diet (FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide and polyols”). This diet has a low content of gas-forming foods and can result in a tremendous reduction of gas in some people.
- Drink alcohol and caffeine products in moderation.
- Reduce stress – consider mindful meditation or yoga.
- Exercise regularly.
- Consider alternative therapies to help reduce IBS-triggering emotional stress, including biofeedback, hypnosis or psychotherapy.
People with IBS should talk with their doctor about medications that can help reduce a wide variety of IBS symptoms. They should also discuss any new medications and ask before taking natural remedies, such as essential oils or probiotics.
“Although IBS cannot be completely prevented and is a chronic condition, proper self-care along with quality health care may help minimize symptoms and extend the time between episodes,” says Dr. Reddy.