If you’re one of the 10-15% of Americans affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the chronic digestive disorder can disrupt your life and make everyday interactions at work, school, or home a challenge. It can cause unpleasant symptoms that occur each week for at least 6 months, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Irregular bowel movements
- Food intolerance
- Cramping, bloating, and gas
- Mucus in your stools
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Alternating between constipation and diarrhea
- Difficulty sleeping or fatigue
- Anxiety and depression
Symptoms range from moderate to severe, and they can make it feel like your life isn’t within your control. Fortunately, the team at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, is here to help.
Board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating different types of IBS. Through in-depth exams and tests, Dr. Rivas identifies the root cause of your IBS and uses his expertise and experience to create a customized treatment plan to help manage your symptoms.
While there’s no known cure for IBS, there are steps you can take to improve your condition and quality of life. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can get your IBS under control and take charge of your life again.
1. Educate yourself about IBS
It’s important to understand your condition as well as possible so you can know the best ways to keep it under control. Talk to Dr. Rivas about your type of IBS, read reputable books and online articles about the condition, and connect with others who’ve also been diagnosed with IBS.
2. Keep track of triggers
IBS affects people differently. For example, many people with IBS notice their symptoms are triggered by stress or strong emotions. Some may notice certain foods cause problems while others can eat the same foods without issue.
Use a notebook or diary to keep track of the foods you eat, and when. Make note of your symptoms and any emotions or stress you face each day. Jot down any major events as well as how much sleep you get each night.
Work to keep a detailed record for at least two weeks. The longer you track these factors, the clearer your IBS picture will be. You’ll be able to identify your specific triggers and learn to avoid or deal with them as they arise so you can avoid unpleasant IBS symptoms.
Understanding which foods bother your IBS is especially important. Some common foods that trigger IBS symptoms for many patients include:
- High-fat foods
- Dairy products
- Artificial sweeteners
- Foods high in sugar
- Diet or sugar-free foods
- Gluten and beans
- Cruciferous vegetables
- All processed baked goods
- Refined breads and grains
In addition, many IBS patients also notice carbonated beverages, with or without caffeine, can serve as a trigger. By noting what you eat and drink, you’ll be able to create your own “foods to avoid” list.
3. Stay active and exercise
If you have IBS, studies have found that staying active and exercising regularly can help manage your symptoms. Physical activity helps you manage stress better, sleep better, and it promotes better gut health by encouraging bowel movements and clearing gas.
Walking regularly is one of the best activities for IBS patients, and in general, people with IBS have the best luck managing symptoms through low-to-moderate impact activities, such as:
- Bodyweight training
- Low-impact aerobics
- Light jogging
If you have IBS, steer clear of intense activities that can aggravate your symptoms, such as HIIT workouts and running.
4. Practice healthy stress management
Because stress is a common trigger for IBS symptoms, it’s important to practice healthy stress management techniques. Mindfulness practices are especially helpful as they help you relax and reduce stress while promoting mental focus and an ability to gain control over your body.
5. Seek support
Be sure to work with a specialist like Dr. Rivas for help managing your symptoms. IBS is a complex gastrointestinal condition, and many factors beyond those listed above must be considered in your treatment plan.
Dr. Rivas offers support by making food recommendations, such as a FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides, and polyols) diet, prescribing medications to help with different symptoms, such as anticholinergic medications to manage painful spasms, and recommendations for fiber supplements and probiotics as necessary.
For help managing your IBS, contact Dr. Rivas and the experts at Rivas Digestive Center. You can call our Hollywood, Florida, office at 954-228-5882 or schedule an appointment using our online booking tool now.