What is It?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) refers to a disorder that involves abdominal (belly) pain and cramping as well as changes in bowel movements. Bowel habits may be predominately constipation or diarrhea or bouts may fluctuate back and forth between the two. Gas and bloating are common in IBS. Abdominal pain may be relieved when the bowels move.
How is it Diagnosed?
IBS itself is not a disease but a collection of symptoms. There is no test specific for IBS. Therefore, tests to rule out other GI disorders and diseases that can present with symptoms similar to IBS are often done. Because of this, IBS is sometimes referred to as a “diagnosis of exclusion”.
How is it Treated?
The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Lifestyle changes can be helpful in many cases of IBS. Examples include reducing stress through regular exercise and improving sleep habits. Making diet changes is another.
No specific diet is recommended for IBS in general, because the condition varies from one person to another. When diet triggers are involved, they are highly specific to the individual. Nonetheless, one of these 3 approaches may be extremely helpful:
1. Dietary Fiber
Increases in dietary fiber are known to help both constipation and diarrhea and can help stabilize an otherwise ever-changing stooling pattern. In diarrhea predominate IBS, it is best to begin with small changes in fiber intake and progress slowly. In some cases, fiber may worsen IBS symptoms. If so, you are more likely to benefit from one of the other two diet approaches.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di, and Mono-saccharides And Polyols. FODMAPs represent a family of poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates, which are highly fermentable (gives off gas and causes bloating) in the presence of gut bacteria. Some people cannot fully digest and absorb FODMAP rich foods. When this happens, IBS like symptoms are common.
FODMAP carbohydrates (lactose, fructose, fructans, polyols and galactans) are found in certain grains, fruits, vegetables, dried peas and beans, milk products and prepared foods and beverages.
To determine if FODMAP foods are worsening IBS symptoms, a 2 week trial to completely eliminate them is worthwhile. If improvements are seen, they can then systematically be reincorporated into the diet to determine which group or groups of FODMAPs are causing the problem. The FODMAP diet is best undertaken with the guidance of a FODMAP savvy dietitian. Ms. Masters is trained in the FODMAP approach.
For further information on the FODMAP diet, visit this web site:
3. LEAP Program (Identifying Trigger Foods)
Those with diarrhea predominate IBS have often been advised to avoid such foods as alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, dairy products, and “gassy” foods. The problem with this approach is that trigger foods are not universal but rather specific to the individual. In addition, any food or food chemical may cause symptoms in those with a non-IgE mediated food allergy.
Non-IgE mediated food allergy can be classified as either type III hypersensitivity (IgG and IgM immune complexes reactions) or type IV (delayed or cell-mediated hypersensitivity).
What if trigger foods specific to the individual could easily be identified? The good news is that there is a blood test called MRT® that can accurately detect Type III and IV food allergy. Not only can this test identify problem foods but problem food additives and chemicals commonly found in our food supply. This method eliminates the guesswork of a traditional elimination diet and can result in much faster resolution of symptoms. It is not unusual to see an 80% reduction in GI symptoms in IBS patients who complete the LEAP Program.
To determine your suitability for the FODMAP diet or the LEAP Program, call to schedule an initial screening and consultation with Ms. Masters.