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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Triggers and Prevention

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3. Stress and Anxiety Triggers for IBS

Stress and anxiety can exacerbate IBS symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and bloating. Different things cause stress for different people. Stress can include:

  • Problems at work
  • Commutes
  • Problems at home
  • Financial problems
  • A sense that things are beyond your control

Prevention Strategies:

  • Practice healthy living. Eat a well-balanced diet that is appropriate for your IBS. Get regular exercise and enough sleep.
  • Do something fun. Listen to music, read, shop, or take a walk.
  • Try behavioral therapy. Learn how to calm yourself down with the help of techniques such as relaxation therapy, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and psychotherapy.
  • Talk to people. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell your family members, close friends, boss, and co-workers about your IBS. They may provide vital support. Plus, the conversation may prevent any misunderstandings when your symptoms flare up and you are not able to meet expectations.
  • Plan ahead. Ease worries about your symptoms flaring up when going out. Get up earlier if you know IBS makes you late for work. If you are driving, map your route so that you know locations of bathrooms. At social events, choose aisle seats close to the facilities. Know what's on the menu so you can eat beforehand if the food will not be agreeable to you.

4. Drugs That Can Trigger IBS

Some drugs can trigger spasms of the colon and symptoms of IBS. These spasms can lead to constipation or diarrhea. Some common culprits include:

  • Antibiotics, especially after prolonged use
  • Antidepressants
  • Medicine containing sorbitol, such as cough syrup

Prevention Strategies:

  • Talk with your doctor about switching to a drug that won't worsen IBS symptoms. Don't stop taking a drug without consulting with your doctor.
  • If an antidepressant is worsening diarrhea or constipation, talk with your doctor about switching medicine. Older antidepressants (called tricyclic antidepressants) can cause constipation. Standard antidepressants (called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which include Prozac and Zoloft) can cause diarrhea, at least initially. Your doctor can help you find an antidepressant that will not worsen your IBS symptoms.

 

5. Menstrual Triggers for IBS

Studies show that women with IBS tend to have worse symptoms during their periods. There's not a lot of information about preventing this type of trigger, but doctors may recommend certain strategies to ease pain and discomfort during your period.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Oral contraceptives. Some brand names are Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Lo/Ovral, and Alesse. These drugs can regularize periods. Side effects may include upset stomach, vomiting, stomach cramps or bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Work with your doctor to find a pill that works without causing side effects.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) drugs. These include drugs also used to treat depression, such as Sarafem, Paxil CR, and Zoloft. PMDD is a severe form of PMS. These drugs adjust levels of serotonin, a brain chemical thought to be out of balance during certain phases of a woman's cycle.

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