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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder. Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world with five million Canadians currently suffering. IBS affects significantly more women than men and is one of the most common causes of work and school absenteeism. Symptoms include gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea or constipation, heartburn, and nausea.

IBS should not be confused with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which comprises ulcerative colitis and Crohns – autoimmune conditions that can cause serious, long-lasting inflammation and sores to the digestive tract.

There is no known cause of IBS but several factors may trigger its onset – among them: a low-fibre diet, food intolerances, intestinal infections, increased use of antibiotics, and stress. It’s important to check in with your doctor for a full assessment and information about approaches to care and possible medications. IBS is very individual so it’s worth keeping notes about how you react to certain foods and stressors in order to gain some insights into what sets IBS in motion for you.

April is IBS Awareness month and the perfect time to check out these basic guidelines for managing IBS:

  • Remember that your bowel is normal — just irritable!
  • Stick to a regular routine: consistent meal times throughout the day and getting adequate sleep will help.
  • Identify and limit the foods that trigger symptoms
  • Eat plenty of fibre, and limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and high-fat foods.
  • Identify sources of stress and how to eliminate or reduce them, and practice relaxation strategies
  • Enjoy regular physical exercise.