Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome

Many of us suffer silently from chronic bowel pain. Contrary to many other types of pain, we rarely go and see a doctor for treatment, unless the discomfort is intolerablen as with Crohn's disease, thinking there is not much that can be done.

While it is true there are few useful drugs that help with bowel pain, diet, lifestyle changes and supplements can and do help a great deal. Pinpointing what food exactly aggravates your symptoms is very important and calls for the so-called elimination diet in which you make a list of foods that worsen your symptoms.

If you are not sure, start with fibrous foods, chocolate, coffee and nuts. As the most likely culprit is insoluble fiber (whole grain bread, cereals), you will want to start with this type of fiber. Eliminate each food item on the list for 3 months and see whether your symptoms improve. If there is no change after 3 months, you can begin eating that food again and start with another food item.
It is important not to eliminate more than one food item at the time as otherwise you won't know for sure which one it is. If gas is a problem, you may want to avoid beans, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
Or take digestive enzymes when the discomfort is not too much as the benefits of eating fiber-rich foods can outweigh the disadvantages.
We also suggest you to read up on the so-called low low-FODMAP-diet.

A few other tips than avoiding problematic foods are to eat 3 or more meals a day and not skip breakfast as the first meal stimulates bowel movement the most, drink plenty of water and non-carbonated drinks, exercise regularly and avoid laxatives, but rather use foods or supplements that have similar but milder effects, such as prunes.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for your health. You can find them in yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut or other fermented food products as well as in food supplements. Probiotics aren't just useful when you just had a course of antibiotics, but also when you suffer from a bowel disorder or a disease caused by a disbalance in beneficial bacteria, such as urinary tract and skin diseases.

While a probiotic most often contains a mix of several bacterial strains, they sometimes contain just one specific strain with proven benefits for specific conditions, such as Lactobacillus plantarum 299v that is found to be especially beneficial to those with irritable bowel syndrome.

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