By Kate Scarlata, R.D.N., L.D.N., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an unrelenting intestinal disorder, occurs in up to 1 in 5 Americans, presenting with bloating, alteration in bowel habits, pain and cramping. Diet may be your first line of defense. Here are 10 evidence-based strategies that may minimize symptoms:
1. Try a low FODMAP diet. The low FODMAP diet offers symptom relief for 70-75 percent of people affected by IBS. With the guidance of a registered dietitian, give this diet a trial to assess if you are FODMAP sensitive. Don’t change your diet before meeting with your health professional.
2. Manage diarrhea. The low FODMAP diet can help mitigate diarrhea. In severe cases, your gastroenterologist may prescribe either an antibiotic (rifaximin) or bile acid sequestrants, as diarrhea may be related to a bacterial infection or over-production of bile.
3. Enlist peppermint oil for pain. Enteric-coated peppermint oil (one capsule contains 0.2 mL) can relax the smooth muscle in the intestine and dull the pain. Be cautious if you suffer from reflux, as peppermint oil may exacerbate this condition.
4. Consider fiber supplements. If constipation is your middle name, work with your health care provider to test fiber supplements. Psyllium husk has the best evidence for efficacy in IBS.
5. Get moving! Gentle daily exercise, such as walking and yoga, can minimize symptoms and encourage more regularity.
6. Add probiotics. Some IBS patients benefit from probiotic supplements. Those with the best efficacy include Align, Culturelle and VSL#3.
7. Consider biofeedback or pelvic floor physical therapy. Both treatments aim to make muscles and nerves more effective for elimination. Biofeedback uses sensors attached to your body to help you better control intestinal function.
8. Beat nausea with ginger tea. Try tea made with fresh peeled ginger root, which can aid stomach emptying.
9. Try herbal extracts to combat bloating. Iberogast is a clinically proven herbal medicine shown to encourage movement of the intestinal tract to manage symptoms of bloating in IBS.
10. Improve your brain-gut communications. Consider gut-directed hypnosis: muscular and mental relaxation via hypnotic suggestion are used to calm your heightened intestinal sensitivity. To find a therapist in your area go to www.IBSHypnosis.com.
What is the Low FODMAP Diet?
The low FODMAP diet is an elimination diet that reduces foods rich in commonly malabsorbed sugars and fibers. FODMAP is an acronym for:
Fermentable (creates gas)
Oligosaccharides (fibers in wheat, beans, garlic, onion)
Disaccharides (lactose in milk)
Monosaccharides (excess fructose in apples, pears, honey, agave syrup)
Polyols (found in stone fruits, cauliflower, mushrooms, pears, apples, watermelon)
The low FODMAP diet has three phases:
1. Elimination phase: FODMAP-rich foods are eliminated for two to six weeks.
2. Reintroduction phase: FODMAPs are methodically reintroduced to identify food triggers.
3. Maintenance phase: Diet is restricted only as necessary for symptom control.
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)