By Sadé Meeks, MS, RD
What is IBS?
Are you aware that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects 10-15% of the population worldwide? That’s millions of people who may suffer with uncomfortable GI symptoms that may possibly disrupt simple, daily activities. Though IBS is one of the most common disorders of the GI tract, there is still so much to learn about the disorder. In light of IBS awareness month, I want to shine a little light on what we already know.
IBS is a chronic GI disorder that is typically associated with abdominal pain, irregular bowel patterns, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea.
IBS is classified by types based on the symptoms:
- IBS-D: Often loose stools
- IBS-C: Often hard stools
- IBS-M: Both hard and soft stools
The American Gastroenterological Association recommends talking to your doctor if you have symptoms more than three times a month for more than three months and it is getting in the way of your normal life.
What Causes IBS?
Well, that is a good question and this is actually part of the frustration that many people with IBS have. The etiology is unknown; however, some strides have been made in understanding some relationships. For example, evidence shows that the composition of the gut bacteria may be connected to IBS. Specifically, gut dysbiosis or negative changes in the gut bacteria are more prevalent in individuals with IBS.
What are some Treatment Options?
Because the cause is not quite clear, it makes the process for treating IBS a little more complex. One of the most effective treatment options for IBS is a Low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polysaccharides, which are names of all types of fermentable carbohydrates that can contribute to symptoms of IBS. A low FODMAP diet involves three phases: elimination, challenge, and integration – all phases which are necessary for identifying FODMAPS that trigger IBS symptoms. The Low FODMAP diet is NOT a “no-FODMAP” diet and should always be conducted under the guidance of a trained Registered Dietitian.
Can you consume Prebiotic Foods with IBS?
Prebiotic foods support a healthy gut composition, however many great prebiotic fibers are also high in FODMAPs. Though high in FODMAPs, it doesn’t automatically rule out all prebiotic foods. In fact, in some studies prebiotic foods worsen symptoms of IBS, while in other studies it aided in the improvement of IBS symptoms. The varying results demonstrate how individualized IBS is and how much we still must learn about this disorder. Because of its complex nature, it’s extremely important to work closely with a Registered Dietitian to develop a meal plan that’s individualized. IBS is already frustrating for some, but healthcare practitioners can help eliminate some of that frustration.