IBS is a functional disorder one which has no anatomical or
structural abnormalities. While there is no identifiable chemical or physical
problem it can wreak havoc in your everyday life. Unfortunately, there is no
cure for IBS, but there are therapies available to make coping with the
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Conventional treatment for IBS may involve medication and
dietary changes, says gastroenterologist Joseph Brasco, co-author of
Restoring Your Digestive Health. Prescription medication to relieve
spasm for people with abdominal pain, such as Bentyl and Levsin, relaxes the
muscle and prevents spasms from occurring and are prescribed frequently for IBS
to help with diarrhea.
The drug Zelnorm is available for some patients under tight
restrictions. The drug was pulled from the market in March 2007 because of
evidence that it raises the risk of heart attacks and stroke. But in
July 2007 the FDA ruled that Zelnorm may be used by some patients in critical
need of the drug who do not have heart problems. The FDA is restricting
Zelnorm's use to the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with constipation
(IBS-C) and chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) in women younger than 55 who
meet specific guidelines.
For those whose IBS is accompanied by constipation laxatives
and fiber are frequently recommended.
Dietary changes play a significant role in managing IBS, says
Brasco. Many people with IBS are either lactose- or fructose-intolerant. Dairy
products, and foods and beverages (such as soda) sweetened with fructose can
trigger episodes of diarrhea and should be limited.
Other sugars such as maltose and sucrose can also aggravate
IBS. These sugars -- found in foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes --
are hard to digest, says Brasco. They pass into the bowel undigested where they
are used by intestinal bacteria and this can lead to gas, bloating, and cramps
(and research shows, to acid reflux as well). "Reducing these foods in your
diet can make a difference," Brasco says.
What you should eat is lots of fiber, says Brasco.
"Fiber is the cornerstone of dietary management, because it regulates the
bowel," he explains. Fiber reduces IBS symptoms -- especially constipation.
Examples of high-fiber foods are apples, peaches, raw broccoli, raw carrots,
cabbage, kidney beans, and whole-grain cereal.
Brasco also recommends dietary supplements for his IBS
patients, specifically digestive enzymes and probiotics. Digestive enzymes --
which usually contain such ingredients as amylase, lactase, protease, and
lipase -- enhance the digestive process, easing not only the symptoms of IBS
but also chronic indigestion. They can be found in health food stores and some
pharmacies (or direct-to-consumer through pharmaceutical companies), and can be
bought without a prescription.