How to tell if you suffer from IBS! Common symptoms, causes & solutions

Does it ever look like there’s a balloon under your shirt after a seemingly normal sized meal, do you have to run to bathroom after a large coffee or experience pain or cramping having eaten a cabbage slaw? What you are experiencing may not be normal. IBS is a term that means Irritable Bowel Syndrome and unlike other conditions there isn’t just one specific symptom that means you have IBS. Hence, the solution for each person differs – significantly!

It can be difficult to know if what you feel in your stomach and gut is ‘normal’ so we thought we’d explore some of the common symptoms and causes to help inform you.

The most common symptoms of IBS are:

·      Pronounced bloating, a feeling a fullness during and/or after eating (ladies – this means more so than that experienced during your menstrual cycle)

·      Abdominal pain (either acute or throbbing)

·      Swing in bowel motions (diarrheoa to constipation)

·      Excessive gas & flatulence

·      Nausea

·      Reflux

·      Fatigue & lethargy

Before you start self-diagnosing or cutting out food groups, STOP. Get tested by your doctor first for the following:

·      Inflammatory bowel disease

·      Diverticultiis

·      Coaeliac Disease

·      Lactose Intolerance

If you have been tested and the results are all clear, then it may be time to look at some other triggers, this is when seeing an Accredited Practising Dietitian becomes essential. They will make sure that you don’t start avoiding foods unnecessarily as this can actually do more harm than good! Additionally they can balance your nutritional intake and implement tasty substitutes once you start manipulating your intake to identify trigger foods.

Why do some people get IBS and others don’t?

Sufferers of IBS have more sensitive GI tracts, meaning that movement of the gut caused by the digestion of food is perceived as pain by their brains. The different types and amounts of bacteria are one the fundamental causes of IBS, below are some of the some common food culprits:

1.    Windy Vegetables

We often refer to some vegetables as windy, because they cause a large release of gas in the gut when they are digested. They often include: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and sprouts. In those with more sensitive guts, the large amount of insoluble fibre in these vegetables can cause bloating and flatulence. Remember a small amount of farting is normal, if wind persists for hours after a meal or is particularly uncomfortable then you maybe experiencing a bigger reaction.

2.     FODMAPs

These are a group of sugars present in food that pass mostly undigested through your gastrointestinal tract to the large bowel. Here bacteria that live in your bowel feed on these carbohydrate molecules and produce gas, which can cause abdominal discomfort. In individuals with a sensitive gut or an overgrowth of gut bacteria, this may cause symptoms of IBS.

The different groups are:

Excess fructose: eg. Apples, Honey, Pears, Mangoes, Sugar snap peas

Excess Lactose: Large quantities of milk, soft cheese and ice cream

Excess Sugar Polyols: eg. artifical sweetners like isomalt & xylitol,  apricots, cauliflower and mushrooms

Excess Fructans: Wheat, Rye,Barley, Garlic & Leek.

Galacto-oligosaccharides: Legumes like chickpeas, lentils & nuts.

These sugars can be eliminated, and then challenges of these sugars introduced to your gut to determine which class of these sugars produces symptoms. However this is never recommended unless under the guidance of an experienced dietitian.

Big contributors to IBS are also high fat meals, stress, medications, caffeine and alcohol. These all affect the sensitivity of the gut and alter its activity. Be sure to consider this as part of your treatment.

If your gut has caused you some grief, we’d really like to help you out! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our gut friendly team members so we can provide some help and assistance.

Sending health & happiness,

Ash, Kat & Em :)