What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common gastrointestinal condition, affecting an estimated 15% of the general population. Unfortunately for many people, the cause of IBS is unknown. The bowel appears to be oversensitive, with symptoms resulting from a variety of possible triggers. The frequency and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.

Symptoms

Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Wind, bloating and altered bowel habits
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

For some people, factors such as stress, diet and infection can bring on or aggravate symptoms.

Treatment

Identifying the trigger for your IBS is essential in treating the condition. Treatment may include three different types of management:

  • Medical Management– If diagnosed, your doctor will help you understand how your symptoms come about and will reassure you that IBS does not lead to more serious conditions. Your doctor will advise individual treatment for you. Medications to target your specific symptoms may be prescribed by your doctor. Symptoms that may benefit from medication include abdominal pain and bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and anxiety.
  • Psychological Management– Psychotherapy and counselling is often helpful in people who identify lifestyle and other factors (e.g. anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks) as triggers for their IBS symptoms.  Your GP will assist in identifying the right therapist for you.
  • Dietary Management – Dietary modification can be of benefit for people with IBS symptoms. Particular food triggers may be easily identified, but often they are not. To assist determining the role of diet and food triggers for IBS, you should consult an Accredited Practising Dietician who specialises in IBS.
  • Healthy Lifestyle – Medical, psychological and dietary management strategies listed above should be incorporated into the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle practices include incorporating regular physical activity, times for relaxation and socialising with friends and family.

How can diet help IBS?

If dietary triggers are identified to cause symptoms in IBS, you may benefit from modifying your diet. Certain foods may be a contributing factor, but these can vary from person to person.  Dietary restrictions may mean that you are at risk of an inadequate intake of all of the essential daily nutrients. An Accredited Practising Dietitian will assist you to ensure your diet is nutritionally adequate.

Each person with IBS may have differing dietary triggers. Common dietary issues for IBS include:

  • Fats – High fat diets can often aggravate symptoms of IBS. A trial of a low fat diet may improve symptoms.
  • Fibre – Increasing fibre is beneficial in most people with IBS, however, it is important to note that wheat bran fibre has been shown to increase symptoms in some people with IBS.  For others, an increase in fibre is necessary to avoid constipation. The best sources of fibre include psyllium, rice, fruits and vegetables. Always increase fibre gradually and have plenty of water every day.
  • Caffeine – Caffeine can stimulate the bowel and worsen symptoms in those with a diarrhoea predominant IBS. Trial a reduction of caffeine intake, i.e. coffee, cola and energy drinks.
  • Food Intolerances – Intolerance to certain poorly-absorbed sugars, collectively termed FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Diisaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) can cause symptoms of IBS. FODMAPs include lactose, fructose, polyols, fructo-oligosaccharides and gala-oligosaccharides. If this is suspected, speak to an accredited practising dietician who is experienced in IBS and FODMAPs. Coeliac Disease should always be investigated prior to diagnosis of IBS.
  • Artificial Sweeteners – Some artificial sweeteners (e.g. the polyols sorbitol, mannitol) can cause symptoms of abdominal bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea. This type of sweetener is often used in sugar-free confectionery and sugar-free gum.
  • Probiotics – The role of probiotics (good bacteria) for bowel health is an interesting area of research and positive health benefits are emerging. Including sources of probiotics (for example, yoghurt) in the diet may alter the bowel bacteria, which may in turn improve IBS symptoms.

How can ORGRAN products assist?

ORGRAN products can be ideal for those with IBS. Wholesome, nutritious foods can provide the foundation of a well-balanced diet. The entire ORGRAN range is wheat free and allergy friendly. Check out our product range for ORGRAN products with a good source of fibre.