Soothing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) with Nutrition

By Nutritionist Caroline Punch

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a growing complaint amongst the Irish, is a movement disorder of the gut.  Up to 20% of Irish people suffer from this condition, comprising of twice as many women as men. Our body moves the food that we eat moved through our intestines, which are 30 foot long, by muscle waves in a process called peristalsis.  When this normal rhythm of movement is disrupted, the muscles can spasm or become cramped and contract too tightly.  This can contribute to the typical symptom of abdominal pain associated with IBS and lead to an accumulation of mucus and toxins in the intestine.

The umbrella of different symptoms which sufferers can experience is quite broad and this is why it is termed as a syndrome.  Along with abdominal pain, other symptoms include bloating, constipation and diarrhoea, along with secondary symptoms, such as feeling queasy, headaches, vomiting, belching, back pain, indigestion and heartburn. The exact cause of IBS is as yet unknown. However two main factors which have been shown to both trigger and exacerbate the condition are stress and anxiety.  Other factors include sugar or lactose-intolerance, food sensitivities, prolonged antibiotic use and insufficient good bacteria in the gut.

Nutrition tips to help IBS:

  • Take the time to eat your meals properly. Sit down and be mindful of eating slowly and chewing your food.
  • Aim to eat more regular, smaller meals instead of 2-3 much larger meals. This will be effective at regulating bowel function and calming for the digestive process.
  • Swap coffee and tea for much more soothing herbal teas, such as slippery elm or marshmallow tea. This will be much easier on the digestive system.
  • Drink sufficient water between meals and snacks.
  • A food or symptom diary is a great tool for helping to identify food or emotional triggers.
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