As many as 13-20% of Canadians are currently experiencing Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, and the lifetime risk for a Canadian to develop the condition is a significant 30%. This means that you or someone you love will experience IBS. IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that comes with a range of digestive symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. There aren’t any medical tests that can give you a definitive diagnosis, but it’s the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal condition. IBS can be broken down into: - IBS-D is when you mainly experience watery stools in the form of diarrhea - IBS-C means you primarily have hard, difficult to pass stools, or constipation - IBS-M means you fluctuate between diarrhea and constipation, even during the same bowel movement Tracking your symptoms IBS can feel nebulous because it’s hard to know where your symptoms are coming from and why. It can be challenging to get control over the situation and feel like you’re able to help yourself. This is why tracking your symptoms and other variables are a crucial first step in understanding what is and isn’t working for you. With this information you can start the healing process. The idea is to monitor your symptoms, their frequency, and severity. In a dedicated journal create a chart and monitor: - Symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence, belching, feelings of urgency, acid reflux, fatigue, depression, brain fog, plus anything else unique to you - Frequency of symptoms such as daily, almond daily, 3-4 times per week, 1-2 times per week, or rarely - Severity of symptoms like mild, moderate, and severe, or giving them a score out of 10. - You should also keep track of the frequency, form and consistency of your bowel movements. Consulting a Bristol Stool Chart gives you a framework to reference It would also be wise to journal what you’re eating at every meal, your fluid intake, exercise, stress levels, as well as what’s fueling or alleviating your stress. Over time you will start to see patterns, and things you can do to start feeling better. One final consideration when you’re tracking all this information is the idea of your personal tolerance threshold. Your symptoms may only appear once you exceed your personal tolerance threshold for the day. An example of this is you may not get symptoms with a quarter of an avocado per day, but half an avocado has you doubled over in pain. A further example is that you might eat a quarter of an avocado one day, but also eat garlic that day (or even the next day) which will push you over your personal threshold if garlic can also be problematic for you. If you didn’t know avocado was giving you symptoms, you risk assuming just garlic is the problem. Your personal tolerance threshold for the day is a dose dependent reaction that adds up over time. This is why food reintroductions always start with a bite one day, then a larger chunk the next, until you have slowly built up to a full serving size. It’s common to feel you have little to no control when you’re experiencing IBS. Tracking your symptoms, the food you're eating, your stress levels, and other variables you feel might be contributing is a good way to empower yourself in the healing process.
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