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Common Ailments

Irritable Bowel

What is it?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (also known as "spastic colon" or "nervous stomach") is a functional disorder of the colon or large intestine. It is caused by excessive muscle contractions in the intestinal tract usually occurring during times of tension or stress.

What are the symptoms?

- Extreme diarrhea
- Constipation (sometimes alternating with diarrhea)
- Abdominal pain
- Cramping
- Gas

How is it treated?
For many, dealing with the source of tension or stress helps prevent recurrence of irritable bowel; however, the following self-care measures can also help relieve uncomfortable symptoms:


- Increase fiber or "roughage" (non-digestible vegetable matter) in your regular diet by including foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals and bran. Note: Acute diarrhea will require excluding fiber until symptoms subside.
- Avoid known irritants during acute attacks. They may include:
fried or greasy foods
gas-forming foods (i.e. cabbage, broccoli, corn, beans, nuts)
fresh fruits
caffeinated beverages (i.e. coffee, black tea, cola)
milk and milk products
foods containing sorbitol (i.e. diet candies and gum)
Decrease chances of ingesting air by avoiding chewing gum, hard candy and carbonated beverages.
Eat three meals daily. Skipping meals and then eating on an empty stomach can cause havoc with your digestive system and aggravate uncomfortable symptoms.


- Metamucil is the great equalizer; it loosens up constipation and firms up diarrhea. Take one teaspoon in a glass of liquid three times a day (available without prescriptions).
- Avoid laxatives. For relief of constipation, stool softeners (i.e., Surfak, Colace) are preferable and are also available without prescription.
- Avoid antibiotics which can aggravate your condition.

Get daily physical exercise to allow your bowels to relax. Include at least one leisurely walk a day.

Consult health care personnel:

- if you are having trouble coping with daily tension or stress.
- if your symptoms are not relieved by self-care measures.
- if you notice blood in your stool.
- anytime you are unsure of what to do.

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