You may be aware of some of your triggers even before you receive an official diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. When you know what causes flare-ups, you can avoid them more easily. By avoiding known triggers, you can reduce the frequency of some of your symptoms. You may also be able to treat and manage other symptoms with medication. Here are a few of the most commonly known triggers and tips on how to deal with them.
Dietary Triggers for Constipation
Many foods can worsen constipation. In general, these foods should be avoided:
- Cereals and breads made with refined grains
- Highly processed foods (chips and cookies)
- Coffee, alcohol, and carbonated drinks
- High-protein diets
- Dairy products (cheese in particular)
Better dietary choices for those suffering from IBS-related constipation include drinking more water daily and gradually increasing daily fiber intake. Women should consume 28 grams daily and men should consume 38 grams of fiber daily.
Dietary Triggers for Diarrhea
It can be difficult to isolate the foods that cause diarrhea. But these foods are well known for causing people with IBS to suffer diarrhea episodes:
- Consuming too much fiber
- Foods and drinks with caffeine or sorbitol
- Alcoholic beverages
- Carbonated drinks
- Larger meals
- Fatty fried foods
- Dairy products – particularly for those with lactose intolerances
- Foods with wheat – particularly for those with reactions to gluten
If your IBS symptoms often include diarrhea, consider eating more soluble fiber to add bulk to stools. You can get this kind of fiber from the flesh of fruit (without the skin), whole-grain pasta, oats, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Avoid eating hot and cold foods at the same meal. Avoid foods that cause gas such as cabbage, onions, and broccoli. Eat smaller portions more often throughout the day instead of three larger meals. Drink water one hour before and after meals.
Anxiety and Stress IBS Triggers
Anxiety and stress may aggravate symptoms of IBS. Some triggers may include:
- Work-related stress
- Struggles at home
- Feeling out of control
Managing stress can be difficult but there are plenty of tools to help achieve this. Meditation and yoga are two inexpensive but effective strategies to help you relax and reduce stress. Eating a well-balanced diet that eliminates known food triggers is helpful, along with regular exercise. Do things that help you relax like reading a book, listening to music, or taking a walk.
Medications that Trigger IBS
Some medications can trigger diarrhea or constipation. For individuals with IBS, these medications can worsen symptoms:
- Certain antidepressants
- Medications that contain sorbitol (such as cough syrup)
Do not stop taking any prescribed medications without discussing them with your doctor. In some cases, alternative medication may be prescribed if you are experiencing side effects.
Menstrual IBS Triggers
Women often suffer worse symptoms while they are on their menstrual cycle.
Birth control pills can make your periods occur more regularly. However, some of them can have side effects similar to IBS symptoms. Work closely with your doctor to find a birth control pill that will work for you without causing a host of other problems. Some prescription antidepressants can help manage serious PMS symptoms. Discuss these options with your doctor.
Can IBS be cured?
Presently, there isn’t a known cure for irritable bowel syndrome. However, there are treatment options that can help you manage, reduce, or eliminate symptoms. Talking to your doctor or GI specialist and even a dietician can provide you with tools for managing your symptoms effectively. IBS is a chronic condition, and the symptoms can come and go. However, exercising, improving your diet, and some medications can help you be more comfortable.
If you have common IBS symptoms, we can help you find a GI specialist near you. Contact us and let us help you find the help you need.