Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS as it is more commonly known, is a condition that causes discomfort or pain in the stomach and abdominal area accompanied by frequent or chronic diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is thought to affect an estimated 25-40 million people in the United States alone. Doctors are not entirely certain what causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome but there are a number of potential triggers that can produce or exacerbate the symptoms. While not all triggers will affect those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome the same, it is important to know some of the more common catalysts.
A wide range of foods have been shown to trigger or intensify the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the level to which each food has an effect varies among individuals. Some of the more common perpetrators include:
- Carbonated beverages
- Dairy products
- Refined (not whole) grains
- Foods containing wheat or gluten
- Insoluble fibers, such as the skins of vegetables and fruits
- Spicy foods
- Deep fried foods
- Foods high in fat content
Stress and Anxiety
Most sufferers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome notice more frequent or worsened symptoms when in high-stress situations or when experiencing increased anxiety. While stress and anxiety do not directly cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome, stressors that can further aggravate symptoms consist of, but are not limited to:
- Family issues
- Financial problems
- Work or job concerns
- School or exam anxieties
Some prescription drugs naturally cause diarrhea or constipation and, at the same time, can also exaggerate the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Drugs such as antibiotics, some antidepressants, and certain cough syrups or other drugs containing sugar alcohol sorbitol have all shown the ability to exacerbate the symptoms of IBS.
There are many factors that can cause an increase in the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome but each patient diagnosed with IBS may have a different experience. It is important to take note of the triggers that affect you directly in order to identify those influencers that can make matters worse. If you are unsure whether or not you are experiencing signs and symptoms Irritable Bowel Syndrome, consult your primary care physician before taking further action.
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a life-threatening condition but it can lower your quality of life and lead to embarrassing complications in your day-to-day affairs. If you develop IBS-like symptoms, please see your Baptist Health physician for a checkup and diagnosis.