Disease Prevention

Mediterranean Diet and IBS – How to Tame the Pain

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex digestive disorder that affects about 20% of the world’s population. 70% of all people diagnosed with IBS usually exhibit very mild symptoms while the other 25% may exhibit moderately serious symptoms. However, it is sad to not that the remaining 5% of those diagnosed with this condition are prone to suffer from severe IBS symptoms.

irritable bowel syndromeThere is simply no way denying it – the Mediterranean diet works great in relieving symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. So, if you are one of the people who are currently suffering from this condition, switching to the Mediterranean way of eating can be one of your best bets in keeping IBS symptoms well under control. To understand how the Mediterranean diet works for IBS sufferers, let us first understand what IBS really is.

Understanding IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex digestive disorder that affects about 20% of the world’s population. 70% of all people diagnosed with IBS usually exhibit very mild symptoms while the other 25% may exhibit moderately serious symptoms. However, it is sad to not that the remaining 5% of those diagnosed with this condition are prone to suffer from severe IBS symptoms.

According to the American Academy of Gastroenterology, the symptoms of IBS may include flatulence, abdominal pain, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. Some IBS sufferers may often feel that they have not thoroughly emptied their bowels after going to the toilet and may observe a fair amount of mucus in their stool or some other noticeable changes in the size, shape and consistency of their stool. It is also quite common for people with IBS to have alternate bouts of constipation and diarrhea from time to time.

Nobody really knows the exact cause of IBS but some medical experts believe that this condition can be caused by hyperactivity in certain parts of the gut as triggered by the following factors:

  • Inaccurate messages sent from the brain to the gut. Recent research shows that serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter that delivers messages from one part of the body to another, may have something to do with the occurrence of IBS. Under normal conditions, 95% of all serotonin can be found in the gut while the remaining 5% can be found in the brain. People with IBS, however, were found to have abnormal levels of serotonin in their digestive tracts. As a result, they are more susceptible to bowel disorders and the pain associated with it.
  • Bacterial infection affecting the digestive tract. While IBS is not directly caused by any bacterial infection, about one in every six cases were observed to occur after being afflicted with gastroenteritis.
  • Stress or anxiety. Some people’s digestive tracts respond to stress stimuli more strongly as compared to other people.
  • Intolerance to certain foods. Some people reportedly experience aggravated symptoms after eating certain foods. In fact, according to a study published in the July 2005 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, wheat, beef, lamb, pork, and soybeans are some of the of the most serious IBS food triggers. Extremely fatty and/or spicy foods, dairy products, carbonated drinks, caffeine, alcohol and artificial sweeteners can also trigger the symptoms in some people.

Mediterranean Diet and IBS

Considering the extreme dietary restrictions imposed by the condition, you should always try to avoid foods that can trigger your symptoms – even if they are considered healthy by other dietary standards. A good example of this is the insoluble fiber component of whole wheat, bran and cereals. While these may be recommended for most people as part of a healthy dietary regimen, people with IBS may not be able to tolerate it.

So, does this mean that IBS sufferers do not have the chance to partake of a healthy diet? Well, not necessarily. Not all foods containing insoluble fiber affect IBS sufferers in the same way. They can still tolerate some foods containing this type of dietary fiber so it is just a matter of finding which foods worsen their symptoms and which ones doesn’t. You can safely create your own personal list by keeping a food diary.

On the other hand, olive oil, fatty fish and the soluble fiber found in fruits and vegetables are considered to be the most beneficial components of the Mediterranean diet, especially as far as IBS sufferers are concerned. These foods contain essential nutrients needed to keep your gut healthy.

Despite the fact that there are certain components of the Mediterranean diet that would not work with IBS sufferers, the benefits of switching to this kind of diet still outweighs the limitations. So, go ahead and make the switch. Your gut will surely thank you for doing so!

I hope this has been of help to someone.

Ray Baker