I realize many people share the misconception that modern medicine in this era is thoroughly well-studied and the underlying causes and treatment modalities for different diseases have been discovered.
In reality, the truth is far from being so. When you search on the internet regarding a particular medical condition, it’s not uncommon to end up finding vague, beating-the-bush or at best ambiguous information.
It is as though you’ve grasped something from it, but not quite everything.
A simple example that fits the scenario is gastrointestinal tract problems..food intolerance, bloated stomach, constipation, and diarrhea. It is some of the most common complaints of people who have gut issues.
When the underlying causes of your complaints are not determined after diagnostic exclusion of more commonly known diseases, the umbrella term “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” is used by your primary physician.
It’s basically the ” I don’t know what this is but you need a name for it. so I don’t look incompetent” diagnosis.
So if you have been experiencing these symptoms and consulted the doctor but to no avail. This post is for you.
According to the NHS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common, long term condition of the digestive system that causes bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation.
The severity of IBS may vary from one person to another, symptoms generally come and go lasting from days to weeks. A classical description of this condition is abdominal pain after eating certain food followed by an urge to evacualate.
The pain usually resolves after evacuation but there may still be some residual intestinal spasms causing you to feel weak or have abdominal discomfort.
Some people have constipation predominant type of IBS tend to complain of bloated stomach or even nausea after eating.
IBS can also present itself with altered bowel habit, for instance having episodes of diarrhea followed by constipation over the span of the week. Besides that, it is also common to observe a change in stool consistency.
There are different theories proposed in attempt to explain the development of IBS such as prolong consumption of antibiotics, disruption of microflora in the intestines, recent intestinal infection etc.
Another theory explains that consumption of specific food might lead to undigested residuals in the colon. As a result, colonic fermentation takes place and lead to the growth of abnormal intestinal flora.
The intestinal flora may produce toxic metabolites that may potentially damage the mucosal layer of the colon. Over time, microscopic inflammation of the colon leads to the formation of IBS.
For others, it might not be the matter of diet, but rather a problem that comes from the brain-gut connection. There have been studies that show correlations between our brain and the gastrointestinal tract.
In this case, stress is often the culprit for causing gastrointestinal problems. This is how the theory of stress-induced peptic ulcer begin. But I’ll keep that for another topic.
Since nobody knows the exact causes of IBS, it could be different etiologies that lead to the same clinical presentation. That being said, there is no cure for IBS. You can only manage your symptoms through trial and error by finding out what type of food or situation may trigger flareups.
Many people find the symptoms go away entirely when they drastically make changes in their diet. For some people, this means going on a high-fat/low carb diet. This is because bacteria feed mainly on glucose.
When you deprive the micro-flora the nutrients they feed, it may readjust the entire internal environment and reduce fermentation process in your gut leading to less abdominal distention after meal.
A diet similar to low carb diet called low FODMAP diet has been introduced and many people find it effective in improving their IBS symptoms. There is evidence that supports the use of low FODMAP diet not only in Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but also in Inflammable Bowel Disease (IBS).
Essentially, FODMAP diet restricts the consumption of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. They include short chain oligo-saccharide polymers of fructose (fructans) and galactooligosaccharides, disaccharides (lactose), monosaccharides (fructose), and sugar alcohols (polyols), such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol.
Listed below are the types of food that are low in FODMAP, so you can give it a try if you are experiencing symptoms of IBS.
- Vegetables: alfalfa, bean sprouts, green beans, bok choy, capsicum (bell pepper), carrot, chives, fresh herbs, choy sum, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, zucchini
- Fruits: banana, orange, grapes, melon
- Protein: meats, fish, chicken, tofu, tempeh
- Dairy: lactose-free milk, lactose-free yogurts, hard cheese
- Breads and cereals: gluten-free bread and sourdough spelt bread, crisped rice, oats, gluten-free pasta, rice, quinoa
- Biscuits (cookies) and snacks: gluten-free biscuits, rice cakes, corn thins
- Nuts and seeds: almonds (no more than 10 nuts per serving), pumpkin seeds
- Beverage options: water, coffee, tea
To others, this diet may not fit them and might even worsen their IBS. Those people often find it beneficial to on a plant based diet, which help to suppress their symptoms well.
If you do not have lactose intolerance, you can try incorporating probiotics such as yogurts or kefir into your diets to help the growth of healthy microorganisms in your gut.
If diet is not in the equation of relieving your symptoms, stress reduction may be an alternative to help you manage your condition. Hence psychotherapies such as hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy or yoga exercise are part of the IBS treatment modality.
Thank you for reading. Click here to read my previous blog post.