Misconceptions About Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), then you know how disruptive it can be. Some people write it off as a little bloating or stomach pain, but IBS can be so severe that you have to cancel plans, can’t comfortably close your pants, can’t find a good sleeping position, and are a prisoner to the bathroom, afraid to leave your house for a few hours. You’ve probably searched everywhere for help alleviating your symptoms, but one thing is for certain; you cannot afford to make matters worse. If you don’t critically analyze and fact-check some of the treatments you hear about, you could end up with more severe symptoms. Here are some of the top myths about treating irritable bowel syndrome.
You just need to relax
There is certainly a strong connection between the brain and the intestines, and many people believe that if an IBS sufferer were simply stress-free, their symptoms would go away.
A vacation won’t fix things
Even though many IBS sufferers report also dealing with stress, stress alone does not cause IBS. Stress can heighten IBS symptoms, but they would still exist without it.
Just add fiber
Having the correct amount of fiber in your diet is definitely an important part of regulating your bowels, but that doesn’t mean you should start making fiber shakes every morning.
Fiber can make things worse
Think of your intestines as a factory with production lines, and fiber as the materials that make the product. If you put too much material into the complex workings of a factory, it could jam the production line. There is such thing as having too much fiber; talk to your doctor about the right amount for you.
Just ignore it
If you suffer from IBS, then you’ve probably had several people tell you that it’s all in your head. Your friends and family may suggest you only think you have IBS because you fixate on the symptoms and that if you forget about it, you’ll feel better.
That can make matters worse
It’s not all in your head, and if you’ve determined some habits that help alleviate your IBS symptoms, you should probably continue those habits. “Forgetting about it” might cause you to become lazy about the habits that were making things better, and you’ll end up worse than you started.
Just cut out dairy and gluten
You’ve likely heard theories suggesting that everybody is lactose and gluten intolerant and that removing these from one’s diet will alleviate IBS.
That theory is hard to prove
There are plenty of people with confirmed lactose and gluten intolerances who display no symptoms of IBS. Don’t jump to cutting a whole food group out of your diet without seeing a food allergist and confirming you’re sensitive to it.
Treat it as a whole
You’ll find a lot of medications and products claiming to cure IBS as if it were a self-contained condition like diabetes.
It’s a group of symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome is simply the name for a group of symptoms. These symptoms could include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, gastrointestinal and discomfort, but some people with IBS only experience one or two of these symptoms. To feel better, you must treat the specific symptoms.
Enemas and suppositories
Enemas and suppositories can alleviate occasional and severe constipation. Some people may ask why people with IBS don’t simply use these all of the time.
They can cause damage
Using enemas and suppositories regularly can irritate your intestines, and, in essence, make your bowels forget how to move on their own.
Try what your friend did
You may have a friend who suffers from IBS as well, and who praises some method or change for curing her symptoms.
Your IBS was designed for you
Lucky you—not. Unfortunately, since IBS is just a group of symptoms, the causes of those symptoms can be drastically different from one person to the next. While drinking more water or cutting out meat might help one person, it may do nothing for you, or even make your symptoms more severe. Talk to a gastroenterologist about treating IBS and not your fellow sufferer.
Try to control it
Some people get so fed up with their IBS that they try to control it. This could mean not going to the bathroom when they have the urge to, or forcing themselves to go when they don’t need to. People try all kinds of things to control their symptoms.
You can harm yourself
Although your symptoms are unpleasant, they are your body’s way of trying to get something bad out of your system or reach a more comfortable state (eventually). Trying to control the symptoms can be very dangerous.