Top IBS Questions: Answered!

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This post was sponsored by IM HealthScience. 

1. Q: What is IBS? 

A: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder affecting the intestine. IBS involves problems with motility (movement of digested food through the intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets signals from the intestinal nerves), leading to abdominal pain, changes in bowel patterns and other symptoms. Although often disruptive, debilitating and embarrassing, it may be some comfort to know that IBS is NOT life-threatening, nor does it lead to cancer or other more serious illnesses.  

2. Q: How common is IBS? 

A: IBS is very common. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world, estimated 18% vs. 11% globally (Lovell et al. 2012).

3. Q: What are the most common symptoms? 

A: Abdominal Pain, irregular bowl patterns that result in constipation, diarrhea, or alternating periods of both 

4. Q: How do you know if you have IBS? 

A: A set of specific symptom criteria (referred to by physicians as the Rome Criteria)
has been developed to help physicians diagnose IBS.   

5. Q: Can IBS kill you? 

A: No. IBS is a chronic (long term), but manageable condition.  Over time, the symptoms of IBS typically do not get worse, and with an effective treatment plan, as many as one-third of IBS patients may eventually become symptom-free.  

6. Q: Are there any complications of IBS?  

A: While IBS can cause pain and stress, it does not cause any permanent damage to the bowel or lead to cancer or any other major illness.  

7. Q: Is there an IBS Diet?  

A: One of the most common diets recommended by healthcare professionals to alleviate IBS symptoms is the FODMAP diet. Fermentable carbohydrates (also known as FODMAPs), are small carbohydrate (sugar) molecules found in everyday foods that may be poorly absorbed in the small intestine of some people. FODMAPs are fermented (digested) by intestinal bacteria, which can lead to symptoms of abdominal pain, excess gas, constipation and/or diarrhea. Following a low-FODMAP diet may help to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms in 75% of IBS patients.  

Learn more about the FODMAP diet here.  Check out the other diets here.  

8. Q: Will probiotics help my IBS? 

A: If other dietary strategies have not been successful in relieving your symptoms, a trial of a probiotic (in the dose recommended) may be helpful. However, Probiotics are not medicine! They are available to purchase as capsules, tablets or powders, and can also be found in some fortified yogurts and fermented milk products. However, not all probiotics are the same. It is important to choose a product that is proven to be safe and offers benefits for the specific symptoms you want to relieve.  Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about which probiotic may be right for YOU. 

9. Q: Are there other ways to manage IBS? 

A: There are medications approved in Canada for IBS (over the counter or prescription) that can help your symptoms as well.  Peppermint Oilis a relatively new treatment option out there has recently been confirmed in a clinical trial. Peppermint can relax muscle, eases hypersensitivity in the bowels, and modulates pain in IBS. 

IBgard is a new clinically tested capsule filled with tiny beads of peppermint oil, using a technology called SST (Site Specific Targeting). It is the only product of its kind on the market that has gone through a clinical trial. It has been proven to be effective and safe in relieving symptoms in patients with moderate to severe IBS-M and IBS-D.

This product is easily attainable and available over the counter. Patients tested saw relief in symptoms over the course of 24 hours and continued relief over a 3-4 week period. You can read the full clinical study  here,  or, if you’re interested in giving IBgard a try, you can also fill out a survey to get a free trial sample here. 

10. Q: How is IBS different then IBD?  

A: Although both illnesses can be seriously debilitating, there are several primary differences between Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBD is an autoimmune disorder that causes swelling and ulcerations (sores) in the bowel. IBS involves problems with motility (how the bowel moves contents through our intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets sensations in the bowel). Symptoms of IBS may wax and wane and possibly disappear altogether whereas IBD is a chronic condition.  

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