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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive condition which is associated with cramping stomach pains, bloating of the stomach, and alternating diarrhea and constipation. This condition is thought to affect up to one in five people at some point in their life, and it usually first develops when a person is between 20 and 30 years of age.
Different people have different symptoms, of varying severity. Even in the same person, symptoms wax and wane, lasting for a few days or months. Flare-ups occur during periods of stress, or in response to specific trigger foods.
The prevalence of IBS is about 20%, overall. Typically, it starts between the age of 20 and 30 years, and is twice as common in women as in men. Though it lasts a long time, significant remission may occur as time goes on.
IBS is due to some unknown pathology which causes the digestive tract mucosa to become hypersensitive to ordinary food. The resulting mucosal changes lead to indigestion and bacterial proliferation, with the production of several toxins which further aggravate the symptoms.
The pathophysiology of IBS includes:
It is observed that some foods may worsen the symptoms of IBS.
These may include:
People with IBS can try to pinpoint which foods cause their symptoms by keeping a food diary. This will contain:
After a few days, these entries can be discussed with the health care provider to help formulate a list of foods which should be avoided.
People with IBS may consider going on a diet which greatly reduces or avoids foods such as starches and other carbohydrates that cannot be easily digested. This is called a low FODMAP diet, the letters standing for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. This describes the types of sugars found in the following foods, which are not quickly digested and absorbed.
As a result, bacteria in the gut feed on them, releasing gases which cause bloating and cramping. These foods are avoided over the first 1.5 to 2 months. They are then carefully reintroduced one at the time, to test how they are tolerated.
During this period, developing a food plan is important to avoid deficiency diseases. Some foods that should not be eaten include: