IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a common condition that can affect individuals and their digestive systems in many different ways. Have you been suffering from abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating or disordered bowel habit for more than six months? If so, you may benefit from seeking an assessment for IBS.
Your GP can help determine if you have IBS by ordering a blood and stool test. This test will rule out inflammatory conditions such as Coeliac disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease before you make any changes to your diet.
Your GP may also need to refer you to a specialist area if you have some of the above symptoms and any of the following:
Unintentional or unexplained weight loss
Family history of bowel or ovarian cancer
A change in bowel habit causing persistently looser or more frequent stools for more than six weeks in individuals aged over 60
Once you have been diagnosed, you may start reading about this condition and how to manage IBS. It is very important to seek advice from a reliable source in order get the most evidenced-based and safe information. Before trying anything drastic or eliminating certain foods, we would advise you to work through some first line advice to see if some simple changes help relieve symptoms.
Here are some practical tips on how to manage IBS:
Keep to a regular meal pattern and avoid long gaps between each meal time
Try not to skip meals or eat late at night
Limit alcohol intake to 2 units per day and try to have at least two days without alcohol each week
Try to limit your intake of caffeinated drinks to 2 mugs or 3 cups a day. If you are used to more than this, slowly reduce this over a few weeks
Reduce or eliminate fizzy drinks
Aim for 8 cups of fluid a day. This includes water, herbal tea, milk and squash
Reduce intake of high fat, high sugar and greasy foods, such as fast or fried foods, cheese, pizza, burgers, crisps, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, fatty meats, spreads and cooking oils
Cook with fresh ingredients as often as possible
Limit fresh fruit to three portions a day (one portion is 80g or a handful)
Take time to de-stress and relax. Try meditation, breathing exercises, yoga or anything else that you think might help you relax
Exercise regularly by walking, cycling or swimming
Be mindful of your eating; avoid distractions when eating and take your time to chew your food well!
You may want to try taking probiotic supplements or eating foods with natural probiotics, such as live yoghurts, kefir and other fermented foods. There is limited evidence to suggest probiotics can help to relieve symptoms, so if you choose to try a probiotic, they should be taken daily for a minimum of four weeks before you could see a possible improvement in symptoms.
If you have tried everything discussed in this article or would like more specific support, and have not noticed any improvement in symptoms, it may be beneficial to seek further advice from a Registered Dietitian.
We can help advise you if further management such as a FODMAP diet would be appropriate. If you would like further advice, see your GP or get in touch with us for a more in-depth assessment and management plan.