10 Tips for IBS Awareness Month

ibsIrritable bowel syndrome affects millions of Americans every day, and April is a time to take action. All month long healthcare providers and communities nationwide will be working together to help raise awareness about IBS, how it is diagnosed, and how to improve the quality of life for those suffering from the condition.

While the cause of IBS is still largely unknown, symptoms often include some combination of abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea and/or constipation. If you or someone you know is living with IBS, here are 10 tips for improving bowel health:

  1. Add More Fiber. Fiber supports healthy digestive function by helping to absorb and eliminate toxins in the colon that may aggravate IBS symptoms.‡
  2. Limit Fried and Fatty Foods. Fried foods and certain fatty meats may contribute to IBS. Be sure to consume these types of foods in moderation.
  3. Cut Back on Caffeine. Highly caffeinated foods and beverages (such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) have been shown to worsen IBS symptoms.
  4. Avoid Foods High in Sulfur. Some foods that are healthy—including veggies such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, and broccoli—are high in sulfur and may actually trigger IBS symptoms. Opt for low-sulfur veggies instead.
  5. Don’t Rule Out Food Sensitivity. IBS symptoms may stem from an underlying food sensitivity; the two most common are gluten and dairy. A gluten-free diet, dairy-free diet (or both) may help improve IBS symptoms in some people.
  6. Be Kind to Your Digestive Tract. Many herbs and natural ingredients such as marshmallow root, slippery elm, and the amino acid L-glutamine have been found to help nourish and soothe the intestinal tract and bowel.‡
  7. Promote Balance with Probiotics. Eating more probiotic foods helps maintain a balanced internal environment and supports optimal digestion and bowel health.‡
  8. Drink Plenty of Water. Drinking plenty of water (at least half your body weight in ounces every day) helps flush out toxins and other harmful microbes that may be causing IBS symptoms.
  9. Consider Colon Hydrotherapy. IBS sufferers—especially those with severe symptoms—may find that natural colon hydrotherapy helps cleanse the system and improve digestive health and elimination.
  10. Stay Informed with the IBS Information App. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) provides a mobile app to help people learn more about IBS. IBS Info is available for use on iOS and Android platforms.

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New Study: Is Having a Dog Good for Your Gut Bacteria?

woman_kissing_dogThe question is one researchers from the University of Arizona hope to answer after an upcoming study, in which human participants will be paired with canine companions to determine the effects of the relationship on the bacterial population in the digestive tract.

Previous studies have linked dog ownership with better heart health and reduced stress, but anthropology doctoral student and study author Kim Kelly wants to delve more deeply into the story. The three-month study, a joint effort between the university and the Humane Society of Southern California, will examine whether or not living with a dog encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the human gut and whether it is enough to provide substantial physical and mental health benefits.

Researchers are currently recruiting adults 50 or over who are in good health. They will provide each adult with a dog and measure the gut bacteria levels of both at the beginning and the end of the study (as well as at the one- and two-month marks) in order to determine whether or not the relationship has had a positive impact on the gut microflora of either party.

Interestingly, earlier studies have shown that the longer they live together, dog owners and their companions tend to share a lot of the same gut bacteria—in large part because of all those wet, slobbery kisses. Kelly and her team hope to understand more about the relationship and its potential benefits, such as improved digestion and immune function.

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