We all experience digestive discomfort from time to time, but if you experience abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation frequently, you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.
“IBS is very common — it may affect as many as 20 per cent of Canadians — but it often takes years for someone to recognize their symptoms and receive a diagnosis,” says Michelle Gray, pharmacist and owner of Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy.
April is IBS Awareness Month, the perfect opportunity to learn how to recognize the signs of IBS and learn more about treatment options.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
IBS is related to issues moving food through the intestines and also the brain’s interpretation of signals from intestinal nerves. Physical symptoms of IBS likely return again and again:
- Abdominal pain, cramps or bloating
- Abnormal stool frequency or stool form
- Urgency, diarrhea
- Straining at defecation, constipation
- Feeling as if you haven’t completely emptied your bowels
“IBS has psychological impacts as well. It can make people depressed or embarrassed, and the difficulty in predicting symptoms can be extremely disruptive to daily life,” Michelle says.
Treatment options for IBS
No single treatment will work for everyone, and your treatment will depend on your symptoms and the advice of a licensed medical professional.
- Avoid food triggers: “Track the foods you eat and make notes about your symptoms,” Michelle says. Alcohol, caffeine and dairy products may worsen symptoms of IBS.
- Manage water, exercise, rest and stress: Drink lots of water, increase your exercise and work on getting adequate rest. Caring for your body, along with breathing exercises or meditation, may help reduce your body’s stress levels — one cause of some IBS.
“Gut health is essential to our general wellbeing — it’s where we absorb energy and nutrients, and where we get rid of toxins. It influences our immune system, our mood, our nervous system and more,” Michelle says. “Even if you don’t have IBS, maintaining a healthy digestive system is key to feeling your best.”
4 supplements that may improve symptoms of IBS
- Flora Multi-Vits: Restore nutritional balance and fill in the gaps in your daily diet with this easy-to-absorb supplement packed with vitamins and minerals to support your overall health. “IBS can make it harder for your body to absorb the nutrients it desperately needs, which is why I often recommend Flora Multi-Vits,” Michelle says.
- Metagenics UltraGI Replenish: This medical food (available in both chocolate and vanilla flavours!) provides macro- and micro-nutrient support to address malabsorption. Mix it with your smoothie or drink on its own to complement the rest of your meal plan.
- Metagenics UltraFlora Integrity: Adding the probiotic lactobacillus salivarius (the active ingredient in UltraFlora Integrity) to your gut flora may help manage IBS, by influencing immune cell signalling processes.
- Healthology Gut-FX Formula: Add a teaspoon of Gut-FX Formula to water or juice for help repairing your intestinal lining, reducing inflammation and restoring gut health. “Unhealthy bacteria and yeast can disrupt the balance in our digestive system and make it more difficult to carry out normal functions. By providing the building blocks your body needs, you may be able to reduce IBS symptoms,” Michelle says.
If you think you might have IBS, talk to the pharmacists at Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy to find out if any of these products might be right for you.
–Metagenics UltraGI Replenish in Vanilla or Chocolate
-Metagenics UltraFlora Integrity 30 caps