Caring for Stomachs During IBS Awareness Month

IBS Awareness Month sheds light on ways to control pain and discomfort

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Diet changes and relaxation techniques can relieve abdominal pain. Pains that last too long – even with medicine – could be a sign of a more serious condition: irritable bowel syndrome.

To bring attention to the condition, the month of April has been designated Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month.

Different organizations across the country are shedding light on this digestive issue and promoting ways in which to treat the condition.

"Keep a diary of the food you eat."

Abdominal pain, discomfort and changes in bowel habits are characteristics of IBS. It affects between 9 and 23 percent of the population around the world, with symptoms coming and going over time.

A quarter to one-half of all patients diagnosed with IBS also report having heartburn, nausea and bloating. Others have experienced feeling full early on, constipation or the urge to use the toilet.

Non-gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms can also occur, including muscle pain, sleep disturbances, fatigue and sexual dysfunction.

The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders designated April as IBS Awareness Month in 1997.

The foundation has several tips for keeping IBS at bay and dealing with the symptoms.

Sleeping & Relaxation:

For those who have trouble sleeping, the foundation recommends having a regular downtime period to relax before going to bed and a consistent wake up time. Avoid caffeine at least four hours before bedtime.

In addition, the foundation recommends that the bed only be used for sleep. But when it's time to wake up, individuals should not stay in awake in bed longer than 20 minutes.

IBS patients can also integrate relaxation techniques into their daily lives to find an improved sense of well-being and relief from symptoms.

Food & Diet:

The foundation also recommends eating small, consistent meals throughout the day, especially before a large event.

Patients are also encouraged to eat breakfast if they have constipation. Breakfast is the meal that's most likely to stimulate bowel movements.

Taking probiotics, which are "good" bacteria found in yogurts and dietary supplements, can replace harmful gut bacteria. Peppermint oil taken before meals can temporarily relieve muscle spasms in the GI tract.

Fiber can be good for IBS – but it can also make it worse depending on the patient. The foundation said that many individuals with IBS would benefit from adjusting their fiber intake by adding or reducing fiber intake.

IBS can be stimulated by chocolate, caffeine and nuts as well. The foundation recommends patients keep track of their diet on a daily basis to figure out what could initiate symptoms.

The foundation is a nonprofit research and education organization focused on informing, assisting and supporting people with GI disorders.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 12, 2013
Last Updated:
January 23, 2014