I've had the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome -- a gastrointestinal disorder -- for my whole life, but when I was younger, I didn't realize anything was wrong. My parents thought my cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea were normal because they had similar symptoms. So I thought it was normal, too. As I grew up, I pretty much just coped with it. It was inconvenient, but I did my best.
But three years ago, when I was 27, after having some minor surgery done, I had the worst symptoms ever...
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.