Life can be pretty miserable for the 10 – 15% of the population who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a chronic, long term disorder of the colon which has symptoms including stomach cramps and gas, bloating, and both constipation and diarrhea. This condition affects people of all ages, although the majority of sufferers are aged under 50, and women are twice as likely to develop the condition as men. Despite various theories and a lot of research, there is no definite evidence on what actually causes IBS, but stress is known to make the symptoms worse.

Managing IBS

There is no template for a typical person with IBS. It can flare in a mild form, or so badly that there is an immediate effect (or restriction) on all aspects of the sufferer’s life, affecting their work, relationships, and self esteem. This all makes it more difficult for experts to find a catch all solution which could ease symptoms or even provide a cure. Basically, the only feasible path is to draw on several management techniques which may help reduce or avoid flare-ups.

Monitor Your Diet

Despite no clear connections between food and IBS symptoms, it is likely that certain foodstuffs will trigger a flare, so keeping a detailed food diary is useful to record intake, and possibly eliminate problem foods down the line. Typical IBS triggers include dairy products using cow’s milk, such as milk, yogurt and cream; high fat and spicy foods, raw fruit and some green vegetables, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol.

Eating little and often can help reduce symptoms, as can staying well hydrated, and maintaining as close to a healthy weight as possible.

Actively Combat Stress

There is no one size fits all solution, but various ideas on how to reduce stress and ease IBS are widely available online. Popular options include exercise – which basically means anything from gardening or gentle walking to golf, tennis and horseback riding. Many people report an improvement in their health after trying both relaxation and meditation classes, as well as alternative therapies such as acupuncture and reflexology, to manage their stress.

Breathing exercises and hypnosis have also been reported as beneficial for a good number of people who have tried them. Take the time to find out what works for you, and what you enjoy enough to do for a long time.

Take Helpful Medication

It can be difficult to actually secure an official diagnosis as the symptoms mirror a lot of other conditions, however there are several types of medication which can be prescribed by a physician or bought yourself which should help. For example, IBS relief from Accord is generally pretty prompt, while in some cases an anti-inflammatory may be prescribed initially to help get things under control.

Living with IBS basically means being prepared to experiment with some lifestyle changes and coping strategies to see which work best for you. Although this is a very individual journey, the success stories people share offer hope for a positive outcome.