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Jenny asked...

IBS and diet

I was diagnosed with IBS based upon my symptoms of diarrhoea and abdominal pains last September. Since, my symptoms have become more frequent and wider including increased pain and diarrhoea, cramping and tension in upper abdomen, irritated sore red eyes, dizziness, confusion and brain fag along with anxiety, all after eating. Should I go back to the gastrointestinal specialist or investigate other options like dietitian etc?

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The answer

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system which has symptoms including flatus, bloating, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea or constipation.

IBS is thought to be triggered by stress, anxiety, infection and through difficulties digesting foods particularly those high in sugars and starch.

It is thought that up to 20 percent of the population will suffer from IBS at some point of their lifetime.

IBS can be diagnosed by means of tests for food intolerances and through investigations such as endoscopy and gastroscopy.

Treatment can be through medication to ease abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea/constipation as well as through making changes to lifestyle and diet.

It is noted that exercise, reduction of alcohol, caffeine and smoking can all help with easing IBS symptoms.

You ask about the possibility of seeing a dietician- this I think would be a good idea and they may well be able to give some help as to what foods you can eat or need to avoid.

A diet that has recently had much press in relation to helping IBS is the FODMAP diet - FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols.

Basically these are all short chained carbohydrates which the gut is unable to easily absorb (in the intestine and then the sugars start fermenting because of the bacteria in the gut reacting to sugar).

Foods which are particularly high in these types of carbohydrates include:

Fruit -Dried fruit, apples, pears, cherries, mango and watermelon. Vegetables- asparagus, onions, garlic, cabbage, leeks, mushrooms and cabbage Wheat and Rye based foods Dairy food such as milk, yoghurt and soft cheese Beans, Pulses and Rice Artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol

It is recommended that for a period of 6-8 weeks you try to cut out these elements from your diet and then review to see if symptoms have eased. Gradually items can be re introduced but if symptoms worsen then you leave these out of your diet again. It is thought that sticking to this low FODMAP diet that the effect of IBS is dramatically reduced.

We would also recommend that you seek further information from your GP, IBS organisation and maybe see a specialist to help you further.

Further investigations such as tests for intolerances may be advisable too.

If in your case you are requiring medication to help ease pain and bowel symptoms we would suggest speaking to your GP and Pharmacist as to which medications may also help you such as antispasmodics for cramping and aperients for constipation.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses

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