There’s a lot we know about irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
For example, we know it affects up to 25 million people around the U.S. We know what it’s symptoms look like: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramps and abdominal pain. And we know that, while there is no cure, there are ways to deal with those symptoms.
But does IBS run in families? When it comes to the causes of IBS, science is still somewhat in the dark. There is evidence that it’s the result of anxiety and depression, past traumas, diets and genetics.
IBS and Genetics
It was only recently that researchers began to find definitive proof of the hereditary nature of IBS. A study published in the journal Gastroenterology in 2014 found that patients with a subset of IBS have a specific genetic defect that causes a disruption in bowel function.
“This gives us hope that from only treating symptoms of the disease, we can now work to find disease-modifying agents, which is where we really want to be to affect long-term treatment of IBS,” said Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., one of the authors of the study and the director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.
Another study on IBS and genetics, published last year in the journal Molecular and Cellular Pediatrics, found indications that the probability of having IBS grows if you have a first-degree relative with irritable bowel.
However, it’s not clear whether these family connections are due to shared environmental factors, genetics, or some combination of both.
Dealing with IBS Symptoms
Until someone studying IBS and genetics makes the breakthrough that finds a cure, people with the syndrome can at least treat or alleviate the symptoms.
Treatments usually involve a combination of the following options:
Your doctor may recommend medication to ease IBS symptoms. These can include:
Fiber supplements and laxatives – If adding fiber to your diet doesn’t reduce your constipation, these might be able to help.
Loperamide – This medication can reduce diarrhea in people with IBS, although it doesn’t help with issues such as bloating and pain.
Antispasmodics – These drugs can reduce abdominal pain and control spasms in the colon.
Antidepressants – Some antidepressants can relieve IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain.
Medications can cause side effects, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicines for your IBS.
Probiotics are microorganisms, most often bacteria, that live in your GI tract and – when taken in large enough amounts – can improve IBS symptoms. You can take dietary supplements that contain probiotics, and find them in foods such as yogurt.
Reducing stress can help improve IBS symptoms such as pain and cramping. Meditation, yoga and counseling can help you reduce stress, as will getting more sleep.
Changes In Diet
Making changes to your eating habits, such as the low-FODMAP diet, can help reduce your IBS symptoms. FODMAPS are carbohydrates that, when improperly digested, stay in your gut and cause pain and bloating.
Low-FODMAP Foods Include:
- Gluten-free breads
- Breads and cereals made from oats
- Smoothies made from low FODMAP fruits and vegetables and lactose-free milk
- Roasted, grilled or steamed low FODMAP vegetables
- Lactose-free yogurt or Greek yogurt
- Carrot sticks with cottage cheese as a snack
As with medication, talk to a dietician before embarking on a low-FODMAP diet. If you’re looking for other ways to deal with digestive ailments, check out Proper Nutrition.
Our protein-rich dietary supplements are filled with bioactive peptides that have been shown to reduce symptoms and restore gut integrity in patients with ailments such as IBS.
Visit our website today to find a product that works for you, and subscribe to our blog for more tips to living with digestive ailments.