IBS Diet: Can Yogurt Ease Your Symptoms?
IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is a common disorder of the bowel, affecting about 20% of the population. It often goes undiagnosed, so the number of people affected could actually be much higher. Women account for most of the reported cases, and often cite other functional disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Symptoms are bothersome and can be severe, but are considered manageable with a proper diet and stress management.
Symptoms of IBS
Symptoms of IBS include:
- Watery bowels or constipation
- Abdominal and pelvic pain, pressure or cramps
- Swollen or bloated abdomen
- Excessive gas
- Stress and anxiety associated with bowel dysfunction
- Strong reaction or intolerance to certain kinds of food
- Bowel irritation during PMS or menstruation
- Stool mucus
Can yogurt ease symptoms?
Yes and no. Some research suggests that the probiotics in yogurt are beneficial in supplementing "friendly" bacteria, namely bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, to your large intestine or bowel. These bacteria are found in cultures added to yogurt, and also exist naturally in your large intestine. They help in warding off excess growths of yeast and other harmful bacteria which live in the large intestine. For those with IBS, they are thought to be beneficial in eliminating gas and bloating. Probiotics are also thought to speed up the process of food moving through the intestinal tract, thus relieving constipation, and lowering the presence of loose bowel matter, thus alleviating diarrhea. However, yogurt is a dairy product, and many of those who suffer from IBS have difficulty tolerating dairy. But there are other reasons why dairy may aggravate IBS. Dairy products are generally high in fat, or may include whey and casein, two proteins that seem to trigger IBS.
Probiotics found in soy yogurt
It is still possible to supplement your diet with the probiotics bifidobacteria and lactobacilli without consuming dairy. Soy products like cheese, burgers, tofu, and margarine are gaining in popularity these days for those choosing to cut out dairy and/or meat from their diets. Soy yogurt is an excellent substitute for low or even non-fat regular yogurt, and contains the probiotics those with IBS are looking for.
Customizing a diet
With a healthier diet in mind, it may be time to look at the things in your diet which provoke a strong reaction, or which your body finds difficult to tolerate. For example, refrain from eating foods that cause constipation, bloating, or diarrhea. Some foods known to induce these symptoms include: cheese, milk, caffeine, spicy foods, oily foods, processed foods, white bread and alcohol. Keeping a log of which foods aggravate the bowel is advised.
Treatment for IBS
IBS affects 1 in 5 people, and its symptoms, while manageable, can be stressful and irksome. Diet and stress management are two components of a healthier lifestyle. If stress is a consistent factor in your life, it is advisable to develop a coping strategy.