Saturday, June 20, 2009

Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Dear Monique, I have been a vegetarian for 8 (almost 9) years. Recently, I was diagnosed as having Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Since then, I have been eating a lot of rice and baby food because I am having trouble digesting food.

Do you have any food, diet, or exercise suggestions that could help me control this syndrome? Thanks! Kerri

Answer: Dear Kerri, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can result in diarrhea, constipation, lower abdominal pain, and sometimes all three. It is usually caused by certain foods, drinks, or emotional stress. (Make sure you and your doctor have ruled out more serious conditions which have similar symptoms, such as dysentery, lactose intolerance, or an inflammatory bowel disease.)

Many people suffering from IBS find relief with diet, exercise, and stress-relieving techniques. Dietary fiber, found in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, promotes healthy intestinal action and helps regulate stool consistency.

Try adding more easy-to-digest high-fiber foods to your diet, like prunes, oatmeal, brown rice, mashed pumpkin, lima beans, peas, sweet potatoes, and
tempeh. But, reduce your intake of gas-producing foods such as cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, beans and onions. (Although tempeh is made from soybeans, because it is a fermented soy product, it is easy-to-digest and doesn't produce flatulence.)

To keep your bowels running smoothly you also need plenty of fluid. Drink 6-8 glasses a day of water or other easy-to-digest fluids like chamomile tea, mint tea or ginger tea.

Yoga, Pilates and walking are wonderful exercise techniques that massage and tone the intestines, and the body. Try walking for 10-30 minutes or do the Pilates mat exercises, about 20 minutes before or 40 minutes after you eat. Yoga can be done either in the morning or at night. Yoga has an added benefit of helping you cope with emotional stress because it forces you to focus on breathing, stretching and balancing. Yoga helps quiet the mind and tone the body, inside and out.

You may also want to keep a food log to determine what foods agree with you, which ones should be avoided, and how often you eat. Many times it's not what, but how you eat which can cause IBS to act up. Digesting a lot of food all at once can over-stimulate your digestive system. Try eating more frequent smaller meals throughout the day, rather than infrequent larger ones.

Finally, don't worry too much about having IBS, learn to cope with it. The last thing you want to do is get all stressed out because you have IBS, thereby creating a vicious cycle.

I hope this helps.
Sincerely, Monique

For more information about living with IBS, read...

Eating for IBS: 175 Delicious, Nutritious, Low-Fat, Low-Residue Recipes to Stabilize the Touchiest Tummy
by Heather Van Vorous

A Victim No More: Overcoming Irritable Bowel Syndrome
by Jonathan M. Berkowitz, MD

The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Solution
by Stephen Wangen

Also go to

To get you started with yoga, try the video
Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies with Sara Ivanhoe

And a great video for the Pilates mat exercises is
Pilates for Dummies with Michelle Dozios

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.

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