Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is especially hard on people at work, but there are ways to cope.
Even getting ready to go to work can be hard for people with some types of IBS. It's not unusual for IBS sufferers to have four to five bowel movements before they leave the house, says Jeffrey Roberts, president and founder of the IBS Self Help and Support Group. The group has 60,000 active members online, as well as face-to-face meetings in the U.S., Canada, and other countries.
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Don't try to treat yourself without talking with your doctor. You need to be sure IBS-C is the cause of your symptoms. And there are health risks that come with taking laxatives and supplements regularly.
Here are some common treatment strategies to discuss with your doctor:
Changes in Diet
Many people manage their symptoms by changing what they eat.
Fiber reduces constipation by softening stool, making it easier to pass. Yet few of us come close to eating the daily 25 grams for women or the 38 grams for men that experts recommend.
Good sources of fiber include whole-grain bread and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
If you plan to add more high-fiber foods to your diet, do it gradually. Foods affect each person in different ways. Some people get diarrhea and gas when they eat too much fiber, especially all at once. And some high-fiber foods may not agree with you.
Dried plums, prune juice, ground flaxseed, and water also help loosen bowels.
Another good idea: Stay away from coffee, carbonated drinks, and alcohol. They can slow down your stools. So can processed foods such as chips, cookies, and white bread and rice.
Keep a symptom journal to figure out which foods your system can handle. Just jot down your IBS symptoms, then note the type and amount of foods you ate during the meals before the symptoms started.
Some people use bulking agents, commonly known as fiber supplements, to treat IBS with constipation. These include:
Calcium polycarbophil (Fibercon)
Psyllium (Fiberall, Metamucil, Perdiem, and others)
These agents may help with constipation, but they don't seem to help with other IBS symptoms such as stomachaches, discomfort, and swelling. The extra fiber may make belly pain, bloating, and discomfort worse.