November 4, 2015 | by Justin Goodman MD

It is uncomfortable to experience and it is uncomfortable to talk about, but it can also be manageable.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic disorder affecting the intestine. People with IBS may experience abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and gas or a bloated feeling.

While the condition may be embarrassing, it’s quite common. IBS is estimated to affect between 10 to 15 percent of Americans, mostly under 50 years of age. IBS is so common, in fact, that approximately 20 to 40 percent of gastroenterology visits are due to IBS symptoms.

Fortunately, only a small number of patients with IBS experience severe symptoms, including rectal bleeding, weight loss, and worsening pain. Those with these symptoms should talk to their primary care physician or a gastroenterologist about treatment options and to rule out other possible problems.

Most patients with IBS can manage their condition with positive lifestyle changes. If you have IBS or similar symptoms, consider these tips:

  • Analyze your diet: Determining what food is causing digestive issues is the first step to feeling better. Many patients with IBS have issues with foods like dairy, garlic, and wheat.
  • Relax: While stress doesn’t cause IBS, it is thought to exacerbate and trigger symptoms. Managing your stress with a relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualization, meditation, massage, yoga, tai chi, and biofeedback, can help prevent serious symptoms.
  • Try mindful eating: Mindful eating is the practice of being fully aware of the food you are putting into your body both during preparation and consumption. It also means sitting down and focusing on your meals, not in front of a TV or with an electronic device. This practice will allow you to fully experience the food you’re eating, prevent over-eating, and help you recognize foods that your body disagrees with.
  • Get physical: Many studies suggest exercising can help with IBS symptoms, especially when constipation is a component of the syndrome.

If you’re concerned you have IBS or are interested in learning more about managing symptoms, contact your primary care physician or The Polyclinic Gastroenterology department at 206-860-4544.

Written By: Justin Goodman MD