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Imagine the following scenario: Margaret is sitting at her desk speaking to a customer. All of a sudden, she feels a painful churning in her stomach. Her body insists that she go use the restroom right away, but she can not just hang up on her customer. So, Margaret is faced with a dilemma. Should she hurry to the restroom, leaving her customer dangling on the line? Or should she try to finish the phone call, risking having a humiliating accident in her pants? Either decision seems like a no-win situation.

Margaret, along with 20 percent of the population of the United States, suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Irritable Bowel Syndrome is characterized by stomach pain, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea. For many people, IBS is a painful, embarrassing problem that places an enormous hindrance on their personal and professional lives. Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be exasperating, but there is hope! There are methods one with IBS can try that may make life more comfortable.

The first thing one with IBS should do is start recording their symptoms and foods they consumed each day in a journal. This can help pinpoint specific foods that cause the IBS symptoms. While not everyone react the same to certain foods, there are common triggers. These triggers are fatty, greasy, or fried foods, red meat, butter, margarine, chicken skin, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, fruit and fruit juices, artificial sugars, and vegetables that cause gas such as cabbage, onions, peppers, and broccoli. Keeping track of food consumption throughout the day can help one narrow down what foods are safe and which should be avoided altogether to reduce irritable bowel flare-ups.

Another way to calm the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is to try relaxation techniques. Stress can cause spasms in the colon of someone with IBS. Relaxing will reduce the spasms, and decrease the tension in the stomach. Experimenting with deep breathing, meditation, exercise, listening to music, aromatherapy, massage, and taking a bubble bath are all good ways to relax.

Often, over-the-counter or prescription drugs are prescribed to treat IBS. A doctor may prescribe Lotronex if severe diarrhea is the issue. If the main concern is constipation, Zelnorm may be prescribed. Fiber supplements are also commonly used to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Over-the-counter medications like Imodium, Maalox, Pepto-Bismol, and Kaopectate can relieve some of the symptoms of diarrhea.

Laxatives can be used to treat constipation. There are also herbal remedies. These are available in pill form, brewed as tea, or some as seeds that are chewed on. Peppermint, fennel, ginger, anise, oregano, caraway, and chamomile are popular remedies. They help the symptoms of gas, bloating, nausea, cramps, and aid in digestion.

Coping with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a tremendous challenge with seemingly no end in sight. While these techniques are in no way a guarantee to cure IBS, they may help narrow down the cause and help one figure out a treatment option that is best for them. A doctor’s approval is always best before beginning any treatment because there can be side effects to any medication taken whether prescribed or over-the-counter.