Q: I have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Could you tell me what I can do to manage the condition?

A: As the name suggests, in IBS the intestines are very sensitive and irritable. A slight trigger can give you symptoms like bloating or gas, distention, constipation, diarrhoea, and/or cramping.

In many cases, when the gut is examined under a colonoscope, no structural abnormalities, tumour or obvious causes would be evident; the actual issue is dysfunction of the gut ecosystem.

Frequent flare-ups can take a serious toll on your quality of life.

One of the causes of IBS is food sensitivity. Consistent exposure to foods your gut is sensitive to can aggravate gut-related symptoms. With frequent symptomatic flare-ups, the gut gets more and more sensitive. One such common food allergen or pro-inflammatory food is dairy.

Most of us are unable to digest milk as 
adult humans are not meant to have milk 
from another mammal. Even if you don’t have lactose intolerance, you might not be comfortable with milk products. The milk proteins, casein 
and whey, can cause irritation and inflammation in the gut.

The other cause of IBS is a microbial imbalance in the gut. With bacterial overgrowth, you can experience IBS symptoms. The gut bacteria should stay in the large intestine. However, when there’s bacterial overgrowth, the bacteria moves up the small intestine worsening gut conditions. This bacteria ferments carbs, hence, many of us feel very bloated on having starchy foods like bread, cereal, pasta, sugary food.

The first step to heal IBS is to ‘reboot’ the gut. Avoid all pro-inflammatory, difficult-to-digest foods like grains, dairy, sugar, processed junk food, trans fats, and start having anti-inflammatory, gut-soothing foods like cooked vegetables, fresh fruits, fermented food like pickle, kimchi for probiotic, healthy fats from avocado, coconut, nuts, seeds.

The next step should be taking care of your emotional and mental health. We all know how closely the gut is linked to our brain. Stress and anxiety can exacerbate gut issues. Find a way of reducing your stress that suits you best. It could be meditating or reading a spiritual book or practising yoga or anything else that helps you stay mentally relaxed.

These healthy practices help reduces your gut-related symptoms and make your gut stronger. With time, your gut's tolerance to various food will get better. Treatment for IBS can be initiated at home, starting from your very next meal.

Rashi Chowdhary is a nutritionist and creator of The Protein Bake Shop. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.

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