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.
One approach to coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is behavioral therapy. Why? Stress and anxiety can worsen IBS symptoms. Behavioral therapy can help you cope with these feelings and hopefully reduce some IBS symptoms. It's not known what causes pressure and worry to trigger stomach pain, discomfort, diarrhea, or constipation. But learning how to effectively manage emotional reactions seems to help prevent or ease suffering.
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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.
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.