Many of us suffer silently from IBS or may not even be aware of this disease. IBS, better known as irritable bowel syndrome, is a common disorder of the gut where its function is disrupted, and is characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, discomfort and altered bowel movements.
There are many who are not aware that they suffer from this and remain undiagnosed. Overindulging in our calorie-rich local delicacies and late night binging of snacks at ‘Mamak” stalls are some of the preceding factors.
According to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) 2014 statistics, digestive system diseases are the fifth principal cause of death in public and private hospitals nationwide. It is important that a diagnosis is made so that the issue may be treated.
Are you having frequent or recurrent stomach pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea?
You may think it's food poisoning and may just dismiss it. Many are embarrassed to address this issue they face and eventually it becomes a norm to them in their daily life. Although it may seem like a minor discomfort or inconvenience, this may lead to a chronic digestive disease and long-lasting problems that may cause a greater impact in our lives.
Why do food-triggered gut reactions happen?
IBS-induced food reactions are not typical allergies involving the immune system. Rather they are delayed reactions that occur literally in the gut. The problem stems from an abnormal imbalance of bacteria in the gut that is triggered by certain food. In a normal gut, there are twice as many anaerobes which are bacteria that does not require air to grow. A recent study shows that there are extensive numbers of aerobes (bacteria that requires bacteria) found in fecal samples. Thus, certain foods tend to trigger the normal bacterial activity in the gut.
How do you know if you have IBS?
Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least three days per month and during the last three months that is associated with two or more of the following:
- Abdominal cramps relieved by defecation
- Change in bowel movement frequency/ pattern
- Abdominal distension
- Change in stool form/ appearance
There are a few steps you can take to defeat IBS and to get your gut back to its healthy and normal state.
- Be sure your irritable bowel syndrome is not due to reaction or intolerance of common foods such as dairy products, cereals mainly wheat and bran), coffee, citrus fruits, etc. Keep a detailed history/diary of your daily food intake for at least 7 days. Write down what you eat and how much exactly. Write down any symptoms that occur after you eat each food. Lastly, write down the consistency of the bowel movements.
- Eat six small balanced meals throughout the day. Avoid fatty foods including snacks, fast foods, cheese, pizza, etc.
- If you suspect bowel problems are linked to your diet, you can eliminate this food for three weeks. After your IBS improves, you can try consuming the food again to check if it triggers any reaction.
- Add fibre to your diet with foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
If you think you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, do pay a visit to your doctor for a professional diagnosis.
1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
2. Carper, J (2009) Food- Your Miracle Medicine,Harper Collins.