What Causes I.B.S.? – The New York Times
How common is IBS?
IBS is the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal disorder. Although symptoms can vary from patient to patient, they usually include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea or constipation, or both. The disorder affects more women than men and is more common in people under the age of 50. The annual medical costs of the disease exceed $ 1 billion in the United States alone.
It is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management strategies, such as always knowing the location of the nearest bathroom or having to wear diapers when access to the toilet is limited. The emotional distress it can cause often leads to depression and anxiety and can lead others to mistakenly think that the bowel disorder is self-inflicted.
Can Soothing Therapies Help?
There is a known connection between the brain and the gut, and excessive stress can certainly make symptoms of IBS worse. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be beneficial for some patients, and many find it helpful to practice relaxation techniques such as positive imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
Yoga and other types of physical activity can also decrease the symptoms of IBS and improve the quality of life for patients. A clinical trial involving 102 patients found that those who engaged in vigorous physical activity three to five days a week had reduced physical and psychological symptoms.
Another calming technique that can be done anywhere, anytime to help relieve pain and stress is diaphragmatic breathing, the opposite of suctioning into your bowels. Instead of pushing the chest while the lungs fill with air, the diaphragm is pushed towards the stomach, causing the belly to rise. Practice placing one hand above your belly button to feel your abdomen rise as you breathe in slowly through your nose, then retract as you exhale through your mouth.
What foods should be avoided if I have IBS?
Patients can also minimize their symptoms by avoiding foods or drinks that seem to trigger them. Common troublemakers include wheat and other foods containing gluten, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, and gas-inducing vegetables and carbonated drinks. People can also react badly to spicy or fatty foods, coffee or alcohol.
Some patients find considerable relief by adopting a strict FODMAP diet that eliminates all starches and fermentable sugars, then gradually adding one food at a time to determine which ones are causing symptoms and which are best to avoid. The FODMAP diet favorably changes the population of microbes that live in the intestines, reducing gas-producing bacteria that thrive on fermentable foods. (Plan details can be found on this website.)
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