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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Diet and Lifestyle Changes for IBS

Nearly all people with IBS can be helped, but no one treatment works for everyone. Usually, with a few basic changes in diet and activities, IBS will improve over time. Here are some steps you can take to help reduce symptoms of IBS:

  • Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, teas, and sodas).
  • Increase fiber in your diet (found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts).
  • Drink at least three to four glasses of water per day.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Learn to relax, either by getting more exercise or by reducing stress in your life.

Try limiting the amount of milk and cheese you consume. Eat smaller meals more often or eat smaller portions. However, if you have IBS and are concerned about your calcium intake, you can try other sources of calcium. These sources include broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, tofu, yogurt, sardines, and salmon with bones, calcium-fortified orange juice and breads, calcium supplements, and some antacid tablets.

Keep a record of the foods you eat so you can figure out which foods bring on bouts of IBS. Common food "triggers" of IBS are red peppers, green onions, red wine, wheat, and cow's milk.

Drugs to Treat IBS

The following types of drugs are used to treat IBS:

  • Antispasmodics may be prescribed to control colon muscle spasms; but, experts are unsure that these drugs play a significant role in treating IBS. They also have side effects, such as sedation and constipation that further limit their use.
  • Antidiarrheal medications, such as Imodium, may help with diarrhea.
  • Laxatives may be useful in the short term management of constipation associated with IBS.
  • Bulking agents, such as psyllium, wheat bran, and corn fiber, help slow the movement of food through the digestive system and may also help relieve symptoms.
  • Antidepressants may also be prescribed to help relieve symptoms.
  • Amitiza has been approved by the FDA to treat IBS with constipation in women. The FDA says the drug was not approved for men because studies have not fully demonstrated its effectiveness in men. Common side effects for Amitiza include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Rare side effects include urinary tract infections, dry mouth, fainting, swelling of the extremities, breathing problems, and heart palpitations.
  • Linzess is a capsule taken once daily on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before the first meal of the day. Linzess helps relieve constipation by helping bowel movements occur more often. It cannot be taken by those age 17 years and younger. The drug's most common side effect is diarrhea.
  • Zelnorm is no longer available. In July 2007, the IBS drug Zelnorm was made available again after being pulled from the market following evidence that it raised the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, in April 2008, Zelnorm’s manufacturer voluntarily discontinued the drug.

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