April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month

IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastro-intestinal syndrome which can flare up then subside repeatedly.  It is twice as common in women than in men, and more common in Caucasians than in other ethnicities.  And it is quite common among the senior population.

What is IBS?

Normally our digestive system rhythmically moves food from our stomachs eventually to be eliminated from our bodies.   Along the way, the nutrients and energy is absorbed from the food by our intestines.   When this rhythmic movement isn't working properly, the movement of food either speeds up or slows down.  The result can be diarrhea or constipation.  This is IBS.  Other associated symptoms are bloating, abdominal pain, and mucous with stool. Of course, IBS is not the only disorder to cause constipation or diarrhea and is not the same as other bowel conditions including colitis, spastic colon, and spastic bowel.

How is it Treated?

The symptoms of IBS in seniors are episodic and are often stress related.   Some types of foods may also increase sensitivity, but these vary by individual.  A diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates and fiber can also help with the symptoms. Fiber supplements are sometimes also recommended. In some cases, medications such as anti-spasmodics, tranquilizers or antidepressants are prescribed by a physician.

How Can You Manage IBS?

IBS is usually more a matter of inconvenience than a serious medical problem.  Nevertheless it can be a problem. You can help prevent flare-ups by:

  • Not smoking
  • Avoiding the artificial sweetener, sorbitol
  • Decreasing your consumption of constipating foods (e.g. cheese)
  • Drinking enough water every day (at least 6-8 glasses)
  • Eating more frequent smaller meals rather than one large meal
  • Cutting caffeine or other stimulants from your diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing consumption of chocolate
  • Reducing your intake of irritant foods such as spices, fried and fatty foods
  • Including bulk-forming or fiber products in your diet

If you own a smartphone, you can download a free informational app created by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).  The app is called IBS Info.    You can find it in the Apple Store or on Google Play or more info here. You can also find more info from the IFFGD by clicking here. If caring for a senior loved one is one of the stressors in your busy life, Seniors Helping Seniors can help!  We provide loving, compassionate care in West Chester, Exton, Pottstown, Phoenixville, Collegeville, Royersford, Wayne, Berwyn, Pennsburg, Quakertown, PA and surrounding areas. Call (610) 590-4888 to see how we can help you!