Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder affecting millions worldwide.
Despite its prevalence, there is still a lot of misinformation about IBS. Let’s take a closer look at the common ideas and beliefs about IBS and see what the latest research says.
False: IBS Isn’t a Big Deal
For some people, IBS may only be a minor inconvenience. But for many others, it can be a debilitating condition that significantly impacts their quality of life.
IBS is a real medical condition that should not be ignored. It is not simply a case of “mind over matter” or something that can be overcome with sheer willpower.
If you think you may have IBS, it is important to seek medical help to get a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that works for you.
True: IBS Can Be Affected By Stress
IBS is not “all in your head.” But stress, and other psychological factors can play a role in the condition.
Chronic stress can cause damage to the structure and functioning of your digestive tract. It can change how food moves through your system, increase inflammation, reduce intestinal permeability, and alter your gut microbiota.
All of these changes can contribute to developing or worsening IBS symptoms.
But stress is not the only factor. Although the exact cause is not known, IBS is thought to be a complex disorder with many different contributing factors.
False: IBS Is Just An Upset Stomach
IBS is not a one-time event. It is a chronic condition that can last for years.
The symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person. Still, the primary criterion for an IBS diagnosis is recurrent abdominal pain at least once a week (on average), associated with changes in bowel movement frequency or appearance.
You may receive a different diagnosis if you have additional symptoms or are more severe. For example, if you also have blood in your stool, you may be diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
True: Eating More Fiber and Probiotics May Help
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for IBS. However, many people find that certain dietary changes can help to improve their symptoms.
Eating more fiber and probiotics are two dietary changes that may be particularly helpful.
Fiber can help to regulate bowel movements, increase nutrient absorption, and bulk up stools. You get fiber from plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in your gut. They help to keep your digestive system healthy and can reduce inflammation. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
False: IBS is Linked To Specific Foods
There is no strong evidence that specific foods cause IBS.
However, some people find that certain foods trigger their symptoms. Common trigger foods include dairy, gluten, and high-fat foods.
But it is different for everyone. IBS is not the same as lactose intolerance or celiac disease, both of which are caused by specific food intolerances.
If you think certain foods may be triggering your IBS symptoms, avoiding them may help, but any specific food may not directly cause your IBS.
True: IBS Can Be Treated
Although there is no cure for IBS, a few effective treatments are available.
Treatment strategies for IBS may involve:
- Low-FODMAP diet
- Probiotic supplements
- Anti-diarrheal medications
- Over-the-counter pain meds
- Stress management
If you think you may have IBS, talk to your doctor. They can help you develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs.