Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is also known as IBS. It is referred to as a “functional disorder” because the digestive tract doesn’t work as it should, causing abdominal nerves and muscles to become “hyper” sensitive. Signals between the brain and intestines work overtime. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, passage of mucus, and a feeling of an incomplete bowel movement. No single pattern is routinely found in all patients with IBS. Contractions in the large intestine are more frequent and stronger than in a non-IBS person.
IBS may be a genetically linked disorder. Triggers are often related to anxiety, stress, food, hormones, and caffeine but since everyone has their own individual symptoms and intolerance levels, it is important to try and understand what may be triggering your own symptoms.
On a personal level, I have had IBS for over thirty years now. I'm not telling you that to scare you, just to share that it can be a chronic condition you have to pay attention to. After all of these years, I think I have traced mine back to a case of mono in my 20's and a course of antibiotics that left me covered in hives from head to toe! This makes sense to me because there are A LOT of studies going on with the microbiota (good bacteria) that thrive in our guts. And you know what can happen when there is a "disturbance in the force!"
There is a lot of research going on with “fermentable carbohydrates,” also referred to as FODMAPs. This is an acronym for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols (all are carbohydrates). It is similar to an elimination diet, and can take months to carry out. You stay on a regimen of the foods that are least likely to cause any GI distress for at least 2 weeks. Then introduce one FODMAP food at a time per week and monitor for tolerance. If symptoms arise, then you need to withdraw that food and begin the elimination process again.
Re-introducing foods is challenging and meeting with a registered dietitian well versed in GI health and IBS (like me!) can help you to identify any patterns and can help you to effectively manage these symptoms so you can lead a normal social and productive work life.
Also, check out my review of my colleague, Kate Scarlata's latest book on FODMAPs. She explains the elimination and rechallenge phases in great detail! (hover over the image to link to her book on Amazon).