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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Manageable With Diet: Doctor

Fresh assorted vegetables in boxes at a local farmer's market.
Fresh assorted vegetables in boxes at a local farmer's market.

Irritable bowel syndrome, an intestinal affliction that leads to discomfort among sufferers, is diagnosed only after a complete medical history that includes a careful description of the symptoms and a physical examination, a US physician said Thursday.

The syndrome can be distinguished from other intestinal problems by noting pain during bowel movements, said Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based doctor. The pain will be linked to a change in bowel movements, he said as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Bowel movements may occur as diarrhea or constipation, though the former is more common, he said. Stool can differ in size and can be hard and thin or loose and water, he said.

The following are not signs of the syndrome: rectal bleeding or bloody stool, fever, weight loss, persistent abdominal discomfort, weakness or fatigue. However, these symptoms can point to colon cancer and require a doctor's attention. Colon cancer screening should begin around age 50.

A listener from Svay Rieng province described a lifetime of “diarrhea, stomach growl and a gastrointestinal disorder.”

“My doctor said that I had inflammatory intestinal conditions,” the caller said. “After I took medication, I still had the same symptoms. Do you think it is IBS? What kind of medications should I take? What does one eat for IBS?

“Your case can be Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” the doctor said. “If it is Crohn’s disease, you should take aminosalicylates such as sulfasalazine or mesalamine, which helps prevent inflammation. Corticosteroids may be added if symptoms continue.”

Meanwhile, he said, many people suffer intolerance to lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance can lead to symptoms such as bloating, cramping and diarrhea.

Additionally, gluten, a protein found in whole grains, like wheat, can cause the body's immune system to attack the small intestine. Fruits and vegetables, especially gas producers like cabbage, white radish and beans, can also cause irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, he said.

And some foods can worsen IBS-related diarrhea. These include insoluble fiber found in the skin of fruits and vegetables, food and drinks with chocolate and caffeine, carbonated drinks, large meals, food and drink with dairy, and food with wheat.

To prevent IBS, he said, stay away from dairy products, cabbage, radishes and onions. Eat a well-balanced diet that is appropriate, and talk to your doctor about treatment options for IBS with constipation and IBS with diarrhea.