Got IBS? Here are 10 Things You Should Know.

  1. Everyone has intestinal gas.  Intestinal gas is a problem when it causes pain or impacts your quality of life. If you are experiencing painful gas, meet with your gastroenterologist or dietitian to learn about treatments such as the low FODMAP diet. Did you know most people produce up to 4 pints of gas a day and pass gas about 14 times a day! If occasionally you feel slightly bloated or pass gas a bit more than usual, this is normal. Gas is the result of microbial fermentation in our gut–and some gas is actually a good thing as we need to feed our gut microbes! Gut microbes help regulate our immune system, break down our food with their digestive enzymes (many microbes harbor more digestive enzymes than we do) and create important vitamins.
  2. A bit of bloating is okay. Bloating occurs in healthy people. If the bloating, however,  is painful or uncomfortable seek help…discuss diet or medical/supplement treatments with your dietitian and/or gastroenterologist. The low FODMAP diet has been shown in the research setting to minimize bloating and abdominal pain.
  3. The low FODMAP elimination diet is not designed to be followed forever. The low FODMAP elimination diet is encouraged to be followed for just 2-6 weeks. If you haven’t started re-introduction, give your dietitian a call.
  4. You did not cause your IBS. There is some evidence that food borne illness may be a major cause for IBS but other factors likely play a role–antibiotic use, genetics, & environmental factors, to name a few.
  5. Diet is often only part of the treatment for IBS. Many individuals with IBS may benefit from other therapies such as gut directed hypnotherapy, exercise and/or supplements & medications geared to help manage symptoms. Pelvic floor physical therapy may be helpful too.
  6. Work with a treatment team. IBS is a complex condition that varies significantly from one person to another.  I am a firm believer that a collaborative treatment team for IBS patients is best! Complex conditions often require a few specialists to help guide you toward your best possible outcome. And yes, YOU should be a big part of your treatment team. We call this patient centered care–and you play a leading role in your treatment plan. Hey…it’s your life afterall!
  7. Have realistic expectations of treatment.  A good treatment plan should allow you to experience a good quality of life. It may not help predict every time you will need to go to the bathroom and whether a certain food may cause you occasional GI upset. The reality is, everyone experiences some GI distress–whether you have IBS or not. Don’t get me wrong here…don’t settle with feeling poorly but do try to have realistic expectations of  your GI function.
  8. Don’t let food choices take over your life or make you feel guilty.  If eating certain foods makes you feel’s time to re-vamp your nutritional approach and re-evaluate your nutrition plan. The goal of your nutrition plan is to eat a variety of foods to nourish your body NOT deplete it, enjoy what you are eating and of course, manage your painful symptoms.
  9. Seek life balance. Find time to do what you love on a regular basis. If that is yoga, join a yoga class. If its reading, get yourself a book and get reading. Schedule a date with a friend that makes you laugh or one that simply appreciates you for being you. Life is busy…but you need to prioritize time to get off grid and do a little something just for you. If you don’t prioritize your time…someone else will! It’s one thing to say you’ll do it and another to put the plan in place. To make sure I really get what I need, I put the activity (yoga, manicure, walk with friend) right in my calendar. Once I pen it in, I am much more apt to do it.
  10. Just say no. Or maybe, no thanks. 🙂 When you don’t feel well…it’s important that you prioritize what you can accomplish in a day. And that might mean saying no to the volunteer position at the school, or the coaching job on the soccer field, or the offer to pick up bagels for the office party. Less on your schedule will allow a little more breathing room to seek life balance <see #9 above>!

4 replies on “Got IBS? Here are 10 Things You Should Know.

    • katescarlata

      It might not be long enough for some, Jason. But, staying on the low FODMAP diet long-term can raise pH of stool–this is not desirable. If you do not get full symptom benefit w/ the diet in 2-6 weeks, discuss with your healthcare provider other treatment plans or causes of your distress. There may be other treatable conditions that are causing your symptoms beyond a FODMAP intolerance. Don’t get me wrong–there are parts of the diet that may be continued long term–but the FULL elimination diet beyond 6 weeks is not the goal for the vast majority of patients.

  • Lindsey

    These are great tips! I am really struggling with IBS -C (switched from D over the past two years) and am being worked up for SIBO. I had the lactulose test Thursday and felt “off” for two days afterwards and now have D today. Can this happen with lactulose? I have slow motility so perhaps it is just working its way through my system now.

    Also, is the FODMAP diet a good treatment for SIBO along with the other interventions the doctor recommends? I did the full elimination phase and have been able to reintroduce lactose and some other foods on the list (I’m a vegetarian) but around the time when I went on the FODMAP diet I also became constipated, despite eating tons of fiber.

    What dietary sources of fiber can help someone who has constipation but is already eating loads of fiber? I’m wondering if it is a lack of variety in my diet that is the problem.

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