Treatment options include dietary changes, medication, stress reduction, behavioral therapy, and alternative therapy. You may need to try just one, or you may need a combination of these approaches to get relief.
It's not easy to find the right diet
when you have irritable
bowel syndrome (IBS). Eating certain foods can cause major discomfort
for people with IBS, but figuring out which foods cause the symptoms is a
highly individual process.
WebMD consulted gastrointestinal nutrition expert Patsy Catsos, MS, RD, author of
IBS -- Free at Last!, for answers to your questions about diet and
irritable bowel syndrome.
After all, IBS is a complex syndrome that not only involves problems with bowel movement, but also abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and gas. The goal of treatment is to improve all of your symptoms.
To find out what treatment is right for you, talk with your doctor. Never attempt to treat yourself for IBS without consulting with a doctor. Some over-the-counter medicines and supplements have health risks if taken for a long time. Your doctor will likely recommend one or a combination of the following treatment strategies.
IBS and Diet
A few changes in your diet may help ease IBS with diarrhea.
Avoid chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, the artificial sweetener sorbitol (found in sugarless gum and mints), and fructose (the simple sugar found in honey and many fruits). These can worsen diarrhea symptoms. Your eating history can help you determine if any of these are triggers for your symptoms.
Fried fare and too much fiber can also worsen symptoms. This doesn't mean you should avoid fiber altogether. The nutrient works to prevent diseases such as colon cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Plus, it keeps your diarrhea from turning into constipation. However fiber sometimes leads to flatulence and bloating.
With the diarrhea, it's best to consume soluble -- as opposed to insoluble -- fiber. It takes a longer time to leave the digestive system, says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of the "American Dietetic Association Guide to Better Digestion."
Good sources of soluble fiber include oat bran, barley, the flesh of fruit (as opposed to the skin), and navy, pinto, and lima beans.
It may also help to drink six to eight glasses of plain water a day. Bonci suggests drinking water an hour before or an hour after meals. Drinking water with meals may make the food run through your system a little faster.
Ask your doctor to test you for lactose intolerance (the inability to properly digest milk products), or celiac sprue (a serious disease in which foods with gluten can damage the intestine). These digestive ailments can cause diarrhea, bloating, and cramping.
It might also help if you keep a record of the foods you eat, and their effect on you. Since different foods can impact people in different ways, keeping an IBS symptom journal can help you and your physician figure out what works for you.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines for IBS
Many sufferers and doctors turn to OTC antidiarrhea drugs such as Imodium, Maalox, and Kaopectate for relief of IBS with diarrhea.