Do you, or does someone you know, suffer from IBS? Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects an estimated 10-15% of the American population. However, only 5-7% of those actually receive the diagnosis. 


What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, meaning there is a disconnect in how the gut and brain interact. This miscommunication between the nerves in the brain and gut leads dysfunction in the motility of the GI tract. Food moves too fast or too slow, or alternating between the two. GI nerves may also be extra sensitive, leading to increased pain and irritability to common foods or stress. 


Common symptoms include abdominal pain, excessive gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between the two.  IBS symptoms


Diagnosing IBS is difficult. Firstly, this is partly because of the wide range of symptoms. Secondly, IBS symptoms may alternate, switching from constipation to diarrhea. Sometimes, symptoms will even alternate within the same day. Finally, no structural damages are typically present, so a scope may not be able to ‘see’ the pain or difficulties IBS may present.  IBS diagnosis

Seeing your choice of primary care provider for a physical exam is the first step to gaining a better understanding of your symptoms. More over, you may also want some testing done to rule out other diseases that may mimic IBS.  


Every body and every microbiome is quite unique. As a result, managing IBS will look different from one person to another. Successful management of IBS symptoms may best be achieved through lifestyle and dietary changes. The first step is to find what foods or stresses may trigger symptoms. This happens through trial and error, and a lot of patience.  

Dietary Changes 

  • Adding more fiber to your diet may help support your native gut microbiome. Interestingly, lowering fiber may also help, depending on the nature of each individual’s IBS. 
  • Stay hydrated to ensure an optimally functioning gut lining. For instance, if chronic diarrhea is an issue, it may take more than the baseline amount of water intake daily to maintain proper hydration.  
  • Explore the effects of caffeine, a common culprit of diarrhea in people with IBS. 
  • Try dairy-free, another common culprit. 
  • Try a low FODMAP diet. Many have found great relief in implementing a diet low in fermentable fibers that commonly irritate IBS bowels.  
  • Support the native gut microbiome with a high-quality probiotic IBS management

Lifestyle Changes 

  • Exercise regularly. 
  • Quit smoking, as it makes the liver’s job much more difficult and is harmful to native gut microbiome 
  • Lower/manage stress through cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, or using biofeedback to identify when the body is showing that it is becoming stressed. 

In conclusion, living with IBS can be difficult and requires additional attention to daily habits. However, the good news is that it is not fatal nor does it increase the chances of developing other serious gastrointestinal problems. Above all, having strong body awareness and choosing to listen to what it has to say can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. 


Written by Lorilyn Van Dyke



Cleveland CLinic. (2020, September 24). Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4342-irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs. 

International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. (n.d.). Irritable Bowel Syndrome. https://iffgd.org/gi-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome/.