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
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 with it. Recent
studies show that therapy and patient education can have a positive effect
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) were 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 less 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.