What is IBS, & The Importance of Taking Care of Your Body
April is IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Awareness Month!
Gut issues are a common problem that can make us feel unwell. Most people have experienced bloating, gas, nausea, heart burn, constipation, and/or diarrhea. This may occur on rare occasions - perhaps you’ve had an episode of food poisoning on vacation or tried a new food that didn’t agree with you. For many, these types of symptoms are occasional, but for others they can be a chronic problem. If you have ongoing issues with gut health you may have what’s known as IBS.
What is IBS?
IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome - a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits. The gastrointestinal tract encompasses the entirety of your digestive system:
IBS Is the Most Common Gut Disorder
IBS is the most common gut disorder with an estimated 5 million Canadians affected. IBS is the most common reason for a referral to a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in the digestive system) in the USA, accounting for 25 to 50 percent of all referrals to gastroenterologists.
10 to 15 percent of the population is affected, however studies have shown almost 40 percent of people who meet the diagnostic criteria for IBS are not formally diagnosed. It's important to understand IBS and how to care for your gut and body to avoid uncomfortable symptoms and negative impact on your life!
What Causes IBS?
The causes of IBS are largely unknown and vary among individuals. Some forms of IBS can be linked to a prior episode of food poisoning or “stomach flu” while others causes can include parasites, fungal overgrowth, extensive use of antibiotics, a poor diet low in fruits and vegetables and/or high in processed foods, psychological or social stress, lack of bacterial diversity in the microbiome or an overgrowth of dysbiotic (“bad”) bacteria.
Living With IBS
There are many dietary and lifestyle approaches to reduce the symptoms and better manage IBS. The goal is to reduce suffering and increase your ability to enjoy life without worrying about what may happen when you eat! Here are some diet and lifestyle tips to help manage IBS:
1. Identify Foods That Trigger IBS Symptoms
It can be helpful to identify foods that trigger your IBS symptoms. Some of the most common foods people find relief from eliminating in their diet are dairy products and gluten-containing foods. A diet low in gas-producing fermentable fibers can also be helpful in IBS such as the low- FODMAP diet.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. Sperri is formulated without dairy or gluten and is low in FODMAPs.
2. Get Regular Movement and Exercise!
Studies have found engaging in physical activity - even just regular walking - can improve symptoms of IBS. Constipation and bloating are common in people who are sedentary and moving your body helps move the bowels and supports proper gut function.
3. Reduce and Mitigate Stress
Reducing your stress and learning how to deal with stressful situations will build your resilience against IBS and pain in general! Engaging in practices that strengthen your vagus nerve and shift you into a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state can be very beneficial to people with IBS. Getting adequate sleep of 7-8 hours a night also helps reduce the stress burden on your body and allows proper healing and digestion to occur.
4. Drink Adequate Fluids
Making sure you are properly hydrated is important no matter what IBS symptoms you have. Drink around eight glasses of water a day between meals (try to leave 15 minutes between meals and large amounts of water). Replacing or supplementing meals with a meal replacement beverage can be appropriate as well for those struggling with digestion of solid foods who want to ensure they are still getting adequate daily nutrition. The Sperri meal replacement drink has been formulated to be well tolerated by people with gut sensitivities.
Hopefully these steps will help you or your loved one! Stay tuned for more information on dietary approaches in the next blog.