April is National IBS Awareness Month!

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April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) awareness month and if you struggle with IBS know that you are not alone. In fact, this functional gut disorder affects 10-20% of North Americans. I know that this may be surprising to many of you, since IBS is often viewed as a trivial condition. In the spirit of spreading awareness I thought I would work through some of the fact and some of the fiction.

IBS is a functional gut disorder that affects 10-20% of North Americans.

What is IBS?

  • A long-term (chronic) or recurrent disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) system with symptoms lasting for at least three months.

Symptoms

Symptoms present differently from individual to individual but generally include regularly recurring episodes of :

  • Constipation (IBS-C) or

  • Diarrhea (IBS-D) or

  • Combination of constipation and diarrhea (IBS-M)

The above symptoms are often accompanied by:

  • Gas and/or

  • Bloating

  • abdominal pain

Common IBS Misconceptions

You can diagnose yourself with IBS based on symptoms alone

Nope, nope, nope and nope! If you have symptoms such as changes in you bowel habits, constipation, diarrhea (or a combination of both), abdominal pain and/or bloating do not, I repeat DO NOT self-diagnose yourself with IBS or even let another professional diagnose you with IBS without performing the appropriate tests.

IBS is all in your head

Wrong! If you suffer from IBS hearing this, although not new, can make you feel frustrated and unnecessarily so. While we know that stress can make symptoms worse and that there is a strong connection between the mind and the gut, the symptoms you are experiencing are not made up.

You caused your IBS by eating poorly

Diet may play an important role in managing symptoms but the cause of IBS is yet to be determined. For some people, symptoms come out of nowhere, for others they may be linked to anxiety or stress or a gastrointestinal infection.

You must cut out dairy, gluten, sugar, caffeine…

Diet is complicated as is and restricting unnecessarily can not only increase stress (which can make symptoms of IBS worse) but deprive you of important nutrients needed for general wellbeing as well as digestive wellbeing. It is very important to speak with a dietitian who specializes in IBS to help you choose the right nutrition care plan.