The bloating. The cramping. The feeling that everything in your gut is just churning away. The pain. The altered bowel habits. These are the hallmarks of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a functional disorder of the digestive system that affects north of 25 million Americans, 2/3 of which are women.
In essence, IBS is a diagnosis of elimination. All the symptoms common to IBS can also be caused by other diseases and conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it is imperative that a patient get a full workup from a Gastroenterologist, so a correct diagnosis can be made.
Disordered eating and food phobias are very common amongst patients with IBS, and for good reason! When seemingly everything you eat causes you nothing but digestive misery, it is easy to see how one would resort to wanting to eat little more than chicken, white rice and water. The foods and ingredients that commonly trigger IBS are unfortunately very widely distributed in the American food supply, including in some medications and supplements. Figuring out what foods can and cannot be tolerated can be a cumbersome and frustrating process. Furthermore, sensitivity to these foods isn’t static! Sometimes a well tolerated food suddenly can be poorly tolerated, and a food you didn’t think you could eat “miraculously” stops giving you grief. This makes managing this disorder very challenging to attempt on one’s own.
Fortunately, if you have IBS, you do not have to go it alone. IBS is no picnic to navigate, but it can be quite manageable with help from a Registered Dietitian, especially one who has had training in understanding the disorder.