If you’ve heard the term irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) floating around for a while and turned to Google, you’re not alone. Thousands of searches related to IBS, as well as the associated low FODMAP diet, are typed into Google every month, and there’s a plethora of information out there.
We’ve compiled the answers to the most commonly asked questions into one convenient blog post.
Is IBS real?
Absolutely. Though no one fully understands what causes IBS, doctors agree that IBS is a real medical condition, and definitely not “all in your head.” Just ask the 45 million Americans and 1 billion people worldwide who suffer from it.
What Does IBS Stand For? What is it?
IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. A chronic condition, IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine.
While everyone has stomach aches and difficulty going to the bathroom every so often, people with IBS suffer from pain and discomfort that is persistent and often debilitating.
Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal cramping and pain, usually in the lower half of the belly, that gets worse after meals and feels better after a bowel movement
- Bloating and excess gas
- Constipation, diarrhea, or alternating bouts of each
- Bowel movements that feel uncontrollable, difficult to pass, or incomplete
- Clear or white mucus with the stool
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, IBS is also clearly defined by what it is not:
- It is not an anatomical or structural problem.
- It is not an indefinable physical or chemical disorder.
- It is not a cancer and it will not cause cancer.
- It will not cause other gastrointestinal diseases.
How is IBS diagnosed?
Even with all of the useful and credible information on the internet, the only proper way to diagnose IBS is by talking to your doctor and telling him or her about your symptoms. By asking questions and performing tests to rule out other conditions, your doctor can determine whether your symptoms point to IBS or a different GI problem.
In order to diagnose IBS, your doctor will likely use one of these sets of diagnostic criteria:
- Rome Criteria: Your pain and discomfort last an average of at least one day a week for the last three months, and is associated with at least two of the following three factors:
- A bowel movement relieves the ache and suffering,
- There’s a change in the frequency of bowel movements, and/or
- There’s a change in the stool’s appearance.
- Manning Criteria: Focuses on pain relieved by passing stool, having incomplete bowel movements, having mucus in the stool, and changes in stool consistency. The more of the symptoms you have, the greater chance you have IBS.
Your doctor may also refer you to a gastroenterologist.
What Can and Can’t People with IBS Eat?
Every IBS sufferer has different foods that have a pattern of causing IBS flare-ups, or “trigger” foods, depending on his or her unique food sensitivities (the best way to discover these is consulting a dietitian).
That being said, there are some universally identified foods (high FODMAP foods) that usually lead to digestive problems more often than others, and avoiding or eliminating them while consuming more IBS-friendly foods (low FODMAP foods) can help lessen IBS symptoms. A low FODMAP diet is the go-to dietary intervention for those with IBS and helps up to 75% of sufferers achieve complete symptom relief.
For more information about IBS and solutions to your symptoms, including subscribing to a low FODMAP diet plan, check out our Low FODMAP Diet Blog.