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IBS: What Is It and How to Treat It?

IBS: What Is It and How to Treat It?

In most people, intestines contract and expand in a regular motion to move food through the digestive system. But for those with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, the muscles work overtime and force food out of the system much quicker, which can cause a whole host of problems.

The good news is that there are several tried-and-true treatment options – and a few new remedies – that can help sufferers live more comfortable lives.

What Causes IBS?

There’s no one cause for IBS – and sufferers experience the symptoms a little differently. However, there are several common triggers for IBS and its symptoms that include gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Foods – Certain foods can make your IBS symptoms worse. Gluten products, carbonated beverages, certain fruits and vegetables, and many dairy products can trigger digestive problems. Foods that contain caffeine and sugar substitutes can affect some patients as well. Keep a food diary and track which foods signal symptoms so you can create your personal “avoid” list. Talk with your Doctor about this list and see if he or she has any input to add.

Stress – Stress can make IBS symptoms worse, so you should take steps to reduce stress. Try to find time each day to relax.

Hormones – Women are more likely to experience IBS than men, so some researchers theorize that hormones play a role in its trigger. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid this cause, but women should be aware that they’re more likely to experience symptoms during menstruation.

How to Overcome IBS

There’s currently no cure for IBS, but behavioral and lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms. In addition to keeping a food diary and keeping stress levels in check, there is some promising new research that may lead to a cure.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – While IBS isn’t the result of a psychological problem, it certainly can cause stress and worries for those who suffer from it. Recent studies show that therapy and patient education can have a positive effect on symptoms.
  • More Comprehensive Testing – New tests have been approved by the FDA that could point to bacterial, viral, and parasitic causes for IBS and other gastrointestinal problems. While the testing can’t cure IBS, it could lead to more discoveries about the true cause – and could eventually lead to a cure.
  • Stool Transplants – It may sound like science fiction, but there has been promising research from the University of Guelph that shows that synthetic stool can help IBS patients heal. The synthetic stool has high probiotic levels that can help restore balance in the intestines.
  • New Prescription Medication – Linzess (linaclotide capsules) was approved last year by the FDA for IBS treatment. It can reduce intestinal pain and help your intestines move more effectively.

Smartphone Apps Can Make IBS Easier to Live With

Until there’s a definite cure, IBS patients can live their lives with fewer symptoms and more information – all by using technology. There are several iPhone apps that can help you track your symptoms, avoid the wrong foods and keep your health in check.

  • GI Bodyguard (Free) – You can take control of your IBS symptoms by monitoring your habits and setting reminders. This app makes both of those steps easy. There are several different trackers to help you take note of your symptoms, level of pain, food intake, weight gain or loss, and medications. You can even take note of your entire gastrointestinal health history so it’s easy to send to your doctor via email.
  • Bowel Mover Lite (Free) – This free app can help you keep track of your digestion and health habits. You’ll be able to record your daily bowel movements (and take notes on them), track your water intake and make note of your stress levels. There’s also a daily check of whether or not you had a gluten-free day. You can use this data to graph weekly or monthly health charts to share with your doctor.
  • Manage IBS Now ($.99) – This helpful app focuses on the stress-relieving part of IBS management. There are nine videos from a certified hypnotherapist that promise to help you unwind and reduce stress. There’s also a collection of soothing sounds and an eBook with extra tips included.
  • Answers in Irritable Bowel Syndrome ($.99) – This app includes lectures from Professor Owen Epstein from the British Society of Gastroenterology Guidelines. It’s mainly for health professionals and medical students, but it can be very enlightening for IBS patients as well.

With some lifestyle management, these Smartphone apps, and advice from your Doctor, you can reduce your IBS symptoms and help your body heal.

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