Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gastro-intestinal issue affecting a large number of people. IBS is any feeling of pain in stomach for which one cannot assign a cause like swelling in intestine or stomach. The condition may last lifelong and patients suffer from symptoms like stomach pain, abdominal bloating, constipation among other digestive issues. So, far, the exact cause of IBS has not been fully understood but what experts know is that it has certain triggers like increase in stress, eating spicy foods, caffeinated drinks or alcohol. IBS is more common in people over 40 years of age but can even affect young people.
WHAT IS IBS
"Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastro intestinal disorder that has a substantial impact on quality of life and social functioning. The pathophysiology of IBS is not fully understood. The condition affects between 5% and 15% of the Indian population and is characterised by recurrent abdominal pain associated with a change in the form of the stool or a change in the frequency of stool," says Dr Sandeep R Sharma, Consultant -Interventional & medical gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road.
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR IBS
While there are various therapies that can help treat IBS, the first step always includes dietary and lifestyle modifications.
- REGULAR EXERCISE
Including regular exercise in one’s routine has been shown to improve symptoms of bloating and abdominal pain in many individuals in various studies.
"Any form of exercise is a welcome addition to the management of IBS symptoms. There is no preference for any particular exercise, it can even be traditional forms, such as yoga," says Dr Sharma.
- INCREASE FIBRE INTAKE
Improving fibre intake in the diet is the second most important step towards mitigating symptoms of IBS. Dr Sharma suggests taking soluble fibre, such as ispaghula husk (around 20-30 grams per day).
- LOW FODMAP DIET
Another intervention that is effective in improving symptoms of IBS is a diet low in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols). These are found in a variety of natural foods, fruits, and vegetables. It is beneficial in certain individuals to restrict FODMAP-rich foods in their diet. However, a long-term low FODMAP diet can be deleterious. It is advisable to slowly reintroduce FODMAP foods in a graded manner as tolerated by the individual, once there is improvement in IBS symptoms.
Fruits like apple, avocado, blackberry, mango, watermelon and dairy products with lactose are avoided in low FODMAP diet, while banana, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit and lactose-free dairy can be consumed.
- INCLUDE PROBIOTICS
IBS symptoms can also be managed by inclusion of probiotics or foods rich in probiotics, such as curd, yogurt, buttermilk, and certain types of cheese (gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese).
"In a few trials, probiotics were found to be useful in alleviating diarrhoea and reducing the frequency of bowel movements in IBS patients," says Dr Sharma.