Using Nutrition to Combat Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most commonly diagnosed functional gastrointestinal disorder, affecting between 10 and 15 percent of all people around the world. Ironically, IBS is also one of the least well-understood medical conditions. In some cases, the symptoms can be difficult to recognize.  In other cases, IBS is simply a diagnosis of last resort — that is, the doctor makes the diagnosis simply by ruling out the other diseases and disorders that could produce similar symptoms. And although 2.4 to 3.5 million people in the United States visit a doctor for IBS treatment each year, there is still no clear consensus on the appropriate treatment.

The three general treatment methods for IBS patients are prescription medication, over-the-counter drugs, and lifestyle modification —  and there are a wide range of options to choose from within each of these three categories. IBS patients who are looking to avoid costly prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs are increasingly turning to all-natural management methods. Read on to learn more about nutrition-based strategies that have proven to be valuable for many IBS patients.

Choosing Anti-Inflammatory Foods

IBS is a highly complex disorder, so there is often no single cause — indeed, the causes and triggers can vary significantly between patients. However, multiple rigorous research studies have shown that in many patients, low-grade inflammation in the bowel wall plays a key role in the pathophysiology of the disease. Specifically, studies show that patients with IBS have more mast cells in the mucosal lining of their intestines, and these innate immune cells can contribute to inflammation. Some research also indicates that gastrointestinal tract inflammation can be caused by exposure to infections and/or changes in the population of the bacteria in the gut.

It is important to note that there is a critical distinction between IBS and “true” inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. The level of inflammation for IBS patients is significantly lower than for patients with IBD. As a result, it may be possible to return your levels to normal solely by making smart dietary choices. A great option for IBS patients is to choose a functional food supplement designed specifically to promote a healthy response to inflammation in the gut. These functional foods often come in the form of protein-rich powders that you can easily mix in with your morning smoothie or drink as a delicious post-dinner treat.

A health professional like a chiropractor can provide more specific counseling on “real” foods that can help fight gut inflammation, but here are a few that you might want to try:

 

  • Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce gut inflammation. In a single four-ounce serving, you can get 55% of the daily recommendation.
  • Spinach contains carotenoids and vitamin E, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Chia seeds contain high levels of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids (883% of your daily value in a 3-tablespoon serving) and omega-6 fatty acids (710% of your daily value in a 3-tablespoon serving). They are also a great addition to functional beverage shakes!

Trying an Elimination Diet

For many IBS patients, symptoms are triggered by certain types of foods — but it can be extremely hard for patients to figure out which ones. To help patients answer this question, many GI specialists today are encouraging patients to try an elimination diet. With this type of diet, the patient eliminates a wide range of foods for a detoxifying period. Then, certain foods are gradually reintroduced, and the patient monitors their body’s responsible. This strategy makes it possible for the patient to determine which is the source of their gastrointestinal stress.

One of the most popular elimination diets today is the FODMAPs diet, which was developed by researchers from Monash University in Australia. The name “FODMAPS” stands for seven different types of sugars that can cause gastrointestinal stress — Fermentable Oligosacchardies, Disacchardies, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. During the elimination period, all foods containing these sugars are eliminated from the diet, and then each one is gradually reintroduced so that the culprit can be identified.

For IBS patients, getting the right nutrition during the elimination period of a diet like FODMAPs can be a serious challenge, since so many foods on the market today contain these sugars. If you are looking to decode the reason for your IBS without risking a nutritional deficit, a functional food supplement can be a great choice. Not only can you use functional food powders to make chocolate and vanilla shakes that curb cravings for the sugars you can’t eat anymore, but many of these functional foods are free from fructose and other triggers, so they will not interfere with your elimination diet. Also, once you figure out what is causing your IBS, a functional food supplement can help ensure that you can maintain a healthy diet after cutting out trigger foods.

When going on an elimination diet, it is best to seek nutritional counseling from a health professional like a chiropractor. At Atlanta Chiropractic and Fitness, our chiropractors can offer nutritional counseling to help you find a way to beat IBS. We also offer two functional food supplements that are ideal for IBS patients looking to fight inflammation and reduce their intake of triggering sugars like fructose. Contact us today for more information!

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