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Digestion : Understanding IBS

Cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea—anyone with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is all too familiar with these and other unpleasant symptoms of this common condition. Although the symptoms are uncomfortable and can be downright painful, IBS doesn’t cause permanent damage to the colon or increase the risk of colorectal cancer (such as with colitis or Crohn’s disease), and many people find that symptoms improve when they learn to control their IBS by managing diet, lifestyle, and stress.

Is It IBS?

Most people with IBS experience only mild symptoms. But sometimes these problems can be disabling. Although IBS is a chronic condition, symptoms will be worse at times and improve or even disappear at other times.

If you experience a persistent change in bowel habits or experience any other signs of IBS, it’s important to see a doctor to either diagnose the condition or rule out more serious conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer.

Foods to Choose

Different people can have different triggers for their IBS symptoms, but a handful of foods typically make symptoms worse:

* Alcohol
* Chocolate
* Dairy
* Drinks containing caffeine
* Artificial sweeteners
* Sweets
* Foods high in saturated fat

Most people can manage their symptoms with the proper diet and avoiding foods that seem to aggravate symptoms. When it comes to choosing the right foods, fiber is key—it helps decrease bloating, pain, and other IBS symptoms.

Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In addition to a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies, opt for barley, beans, brown rice, lentils, nuts, dried fruit, and oats.

A Healthy Lifestyle

In addition to avoiding problem foods, it may also help to eat smaller meals. Eating small, frequent meals may make you feel better if you’re suffering from diarrhea.

Exercise regularly. Exercise helps the intestines work properly and can help relieve stress, which exacerbates IBS. Try incorporating yoga, massage, and meditation into your routine.

Drink plenty of water. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids every day, particularly if you’re increasing your fiber intake. Water is best—alcohol and caffeine can make diarrhea worse, and carbonated drinks can produce excess gas in the intestines.

Helpful Supplements

Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic that helps relax the intestines. Look for enteric-coated capsules.

Probiotics may also provide relief from IBS symptoms. Studies find that people with IBS may lack adequate “good” bacteria in the intestines. Research finds that probiotics may help relieve abdominal pain and bloating.

© 2014 Living Naturally
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