When you have irritable bowels, several things can freak you out. Your number one nemesis is going to a place that has no toilet or let’s say it is not easily accessible! What if there is a nearby toilet, but there’s no water? The worst situation would be running out of toilet paper when you needed it most. For the majority of the human population who do not even have irritable bowels, this is a nightmare. How much more of a nightmare is it for people who constantly have bowel trouble like irritable bowels also known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Irritable Bowels)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or irritable bowels refer to the gut’s functional disorder, which commonly affects women more often than men. This means the gut, particularly the large intestine (colon) is not functioning properly.
The primary function of the colon is absorbing salts and water from the digestive products coming from the small intestine. It also serves as a storage house for the stool or feces until the urge to defecate occurs.
To determine whether you have a normal bowel movement or you are already manifesting some digestive malfunctions, particularly the signs and symptoms of irritable bowels, check the following indicators to keep you guided:
- How frequently do you have a bowel movement each day?
Frequency of bowel movement is the first indicator that you need to check. Every person has a unique pattern and bowel movement habit. In general, 1-2 bowel movements each day is the average. However, other people would only have 2-3 bowel movements per week. As long as you are comfortable with your pattern, then that defines the normal frequency of bowel movement for you.
The frequency becomes abnormal once it deviates your regular pattern. In addition, that change in frequency causes discomfort for you such as experiencing abdominal pain, bloating or other signs and symptoms.
In Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you would alternately have diarrhea and constipation. Either, you would defecate more frequent than the usual or you will experience a difficulty in defecating. Bloating, abdominal pain or cramps and nausea often accompany diarrhea or constipation.
- What is the color and characteristic of your feces?
The feces are normally soft and brown in color. The bile produced in the liver, which is responsible for digesting the fatty foods, produces this color. When there is a drastic change in the color and consistency of your feces; that is a red flag. However, take note as well that taking vitamins, particularly those that contain iron, can turn your stools black, but this is normal.
Your stool becomes watery or contains mucus when you have irritable bowels. Sometimes, it would appear small and pellet-like. At times, particularly when you are constipated, your stool is hard and it is difficult to defecate.
- Do your feces smell stinky?
It is normal for your feces to smell stinky. This indicates that you have an ample amount of good microbes in your gut that are helping you maintain a healthy digestive function. Unless there is an unusual foul smell accompanied by changes in your bowel movement pattern and stool appearance.
- Is there blood in your stool?
Normally, there should be no blood streaks in your stool as this indicates possible internal bleeding. Another indication of internal bleeding is a black colored stool unless you have taken something that causes stool discoloration such as vitamins with iron.
Blood in the stool is not common in irritable bowels (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). If you have a bloody stool, that can indicate a different gastrointestinal disease.
Other signs and symptoms experienced by people with irritable bowels are:
- Loss of appetite
Most of the irritable bowels’ signs and symptoms are common manifestations of various gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. What makes the condition different is that there is no abnormality in the structure of your colon. Often, your gut looks normal upon examination, but you would have persistent signs and symptoms of an upset gut.
Three Massive Mistakes that Keep You Suffering from Irritable Bowels?
The exact cause of irritable bowels remains unclear. However, several factors play significant roles. The muscle lining of the intestines is supposed to have a coordinated rhythm contracting and relaxing to propel food from your stomach through your intestine going out to your rectum when you defecate. The contractions of the intestinal muscles in irritable bowels are stronger than usual and they last longer too. This causes diarrhea, gas and bloating. At times, the contractions are weak, delaying the transit of food, resulting in constipation.
Another significant factor is the signal system between the intestines and the brain. Researchers cited that the poor communication between these organs has caused the body to overreact, which is often manifested by gastrointestinal upset symptoms.
Irritable bowel is manageable. Don’t let irritable bowels control you!
Irritable bowel is manageable. You need to know what triggers it and how to deal with it to gain control over your IBS. Don’t let irritable bowels control you. Set yourself free from your fears of going into social events just because your IBS is holding you back. You need to get rid of the three massive mistakes that you have been repeatedly doing, which keep you suffering from the debilitating symptoms of IBS!
Irritable Bowels Mistake #1: Overexposure to stress and poor stress management
What keeps stressing you out? Think of the sources of your stress. Is it work-related? Are you troubled by relationship or home issues? Are you having financial difficulties? Is a major change in your life causing your stress? You need to figure out what is bothering you because stress is the number one trigger of your Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Sometimes, we get used to being exposed to stress regularly that it has become part of our routine. You may often say, “Financial problems are nothing new, even rich people have money issues.” However, after watching the news and seeing that the economy is down, things like your retirement funds and health insurance, may make you worry a bit. After receiving your bills, you are constantly thinking about how to cope with your financial needs. It may be interesting to note, among the many causes of stress financial issues rank high along with relationship problems.
Another source of stress is when you enslave yourself to your work. How many times do you bring your laptop into the bedroom to finish a work report, reply to work emails, or prepare a work presentation? How many times do you fall asleep with your laptop next to you? Do you ever try going on a vacation only to bring work with you, thinking that when you’re not doing anything, you can use the spare time to get some things done? You perfectly defeated the purpose of the “vacation.”
Speaking of job… do you really like what you are doing? If not, this could be another cause of stress.
How about your relationships with your family, loved ones, friends, workmates and other significant people in your life? The number one source of emotional stress is family trouble. Whether you are fighting with your husband on how to spend and save money, how you raise your kids, or you argue over dishwashing, cleaning the house and doing the laundry, these can often preoccupy your mind and stress you out.
When you are stressed, peptides known as corticotrophin releasing factors (CRF) are released. CRF affects the motility of the gut. It also increases the permeability and hypersensitivity of the gut and it makes the colon more sensitive to pain. All of these cause the symptoms of irritable bowels. Moreover, stress also promotes overgrowth of bad bugs in your gut. Therefore, it is a big mistake to ignore any source of stress knowing how it wreaks havoc to your gut.
The next time you suffer from the debilitating symptoms of IBS, stop to see how you are dealing with stress. If you think you are overwhelmed by stress, it is time to begin effective stress management strategies.
Irritable Bowels Mistake #2: Eating IBS trigger foods
Another mistake that most women who suffer from IBS (irritable bowels) make is taking in food and drinks that trigger or worsen their symptoms. These include foods that are high in insoluble fiber, gluten, fat and caffeine.
Foods high in insoluble fiber do not dissolve with water. It is a healthy fiber as it helps prevent constipation by its laxative effect and ability to add bulk to your diet. However, this type of fiber is not recommended for people with irritable bowels as it can aggravate your symptoms. The laxative property of these foods would induce more episodes of diarrhea, which is a typical IBS symptom. Broccoli, brown rice, cabbage, cucumber, grapes, green beans, tomatoes, and onions are just some of these foods high in insoluble fiber.
To promote good digestion without causing gastrointestinal upset in individuals with irritable bowels, choose foods that are rich in soluble fiber like apples, blueberries, celery, carrots, dried peas, flaxseeds, oranges, oat cereal, pears, psyllium, and strawberries,
Most milk contains fat and lactose. Fat can aggravate diarrhea. Furthermore, people with IBS are often lactose intolerant. So, consume non-fat or at least low fat dairy products. If you have intolerance to lactose, switch to a non-dairy milk such as soymilk or a nut derivative milk product.
Fried foods are also high in fat content. That is why your trip to the toilet increases after eating oily and fatty foods.
In addition, observe how your gut responds when you eat green beans as well. Green beans can increase bloating, abdominal cramps and gas.
Some individuals with irritable bowels have gluten intolerance as well. Therefore, food products that have barley, rye and wheat must be removed from your diet list, as they are high in gluten content. Cakes, pasta, pizza and cookies may contain these food ingredients, but you may substitute them with ingredients that are gluten-free.
Last but not the least of the IBS triggers are caffeinated foods and drinks. It might be your habit to start your morning with a cup of coffee or munch chocolates during break time, but this is not a good habit if you have IBS. Coffee, chocolates, energy drinks and other caffeine-containing food and drinks stimulate the colon and causes diarrhea in some IBS sufferers.
Remove Irritable Bowel Syndrome (irritable bowels) trigger foods one at a time, NOT all at once.
Don’t panic, as you don’t have to avoid these foods all at once. You need to evaluate which among these foods are your IBS triggers. For instance, drinking your coffee in the morning may aggravate your symptoms. Avoid drinking coffee for 12 weeks and see if you see improvements. Do the same to the rest of the foods that you think are triggering your irritable bowels. However, remove one food at a time.
Irritable Bowels Mistake #3: Allowing bad bug overgrowth in your gut
Aside from food intolerance and stress, bad bugs in your gut plays a significant role in your irritable bowels. The bad bugs, also known as Candia albicans, are normal residents of your gut. These yeast species are harmless unless they overgrow and overwhelm the good bacteria in the gut.
Candida is an opportunistic fungus. What cause their overgrowth are your dietary lapses and other unhealthy habits such as eating a high –sugar diet, alcohol intake, eating a lot of fermented or processed foods, and a stressful lifestyle.
Sugar and yeast-containing products are actually the staple food for the bad bugs in your gut. In addition, be reminded that many of your favorite foods and drinks may be high in sugar (carbohydrates) and yeast, such as cakes, cereals, bread and potato products, preserved foods, crackers, pickles, soda, jams, pasta, beer and other flour-based foods. The more you eat of these kinds of foods, the more you are nourishing that opportunistic yeast.
Processed meats can also kill the good bacteria in your gut as most of these meats contain nitrates, artificial colors, and other preservatives.
Moreover, alcohol intake promotes bad bug overgrowth by destroying the good bacteria in your gut and damaging the gut tissues. The good bacteria maintain a healthy gut by keeping Candida at a harmless number. Losing these good bacteria and damaging the gastrointestinal lining provides a sustainable environment for the growth of the bad bugs Candida. There is less competition for nutrition as good bacteria is reduced in number and the protective barrier of the gut is wrecked.
Concerning a stressful lifestyle, studies have shown that the immune system becomes weak when you are exposed to too much stress. Likewise, the good microflora in your gut eventually reduce in number while Candida are reproducing quickly. Check Irritable Bowels Mistake #1 for more details on how stress triggers your irritable bowels.
To ward off bad bugs in your gut, increase your intake of probiotics. Foods that contain probiotic bacteria include some yogurts, milk drinks and cheese. You would easily know as the food product label has the word “probiotics.”
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