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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (cont.)

Prevention

You cannot prevent irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But proper self-care may help minimize symptoms and perhaps extend the time between episodes. This includes quitting smoking, avoiding caffeine and foods that make symptoms worse, and getting regular exercise.

Home Treatment

For most people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), home treatment may be the best way to manage the symptoms. It is also helpful to learn all you can about IBS so you can effectively communicate concerns and questions to your doctor.

Although there currently is no cure for IBS, careful attention to diet and stress management should help keep your symptoms under control and perhaps even prevent them from coming back.

Diet modification

In many people who have IBS, eating may trigger symptoms. But for most people, there is not a particular type of food that triggers symptoms.

Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can help control constipation. High-fiber foods include fresh fruits (raspberries, pears, apples), fresh vegetables (peas, brussels sprouts), wheat bran, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Beans such as kidney, pinto, and garbanzo are also high-fiber foods, but they should probably be avoided if gas is one of your symptoms.

If you have trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, you can take a fiber supplement, such as psyllium (for example, Metamucil). If you take a fiber supplement, start with a small dose and very slowly increase the dose over a month or more. Also, make sure you drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water.

You can take steps to reduce the possibility that certain foods will cause symptoms, such as avoiding or limiting gas-producing foods (including beans and cabbage), sugarless chewing gum and candy, caffeine, and alcohol.

Click here to view an Actionset.Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Controlling Symptoms With Diet

Stress management

If stress seems to trigger your symptoms, the following may help you better manage stress and avoid or ease some IBS episodes:

  • Keep a diary or journal of your symptoms as well as life events that occur with them. This often helps clarify the connection between symptoms and stressful occasions. After you have identified certain events or situations that bring on symptoms, you can develop ways of dealing with these situations.
  • Get regular, vigorous exercise (such as swimming, jogging, or brisk walking) to help reduce tension.
  • A hobby or an outside activity can provide a break from stressful situations.
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, hypnotists, counselors, social workers, and biofeedback specialists can provide methods for coping with stress.

Because there are no structural problems in the intestines of people who have IBS, some people may think this means that the symptoms "are all in their head." This is not true. The pain, discomfort, and bloating are real and have many different causes that can be addressed to help relieve symptoms.

While the symptoms are quite real, psychological factors often play a role in the development of IBS. People who have IBS are more likely than people without the condition to have depression, panic disorder, or other psychological conditions.1 Acknowledging these factors may help you and your doctor successfully manage your condition.

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