Unlike more serious intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, IBS does not increase the risk of colorectal cancer, and in most people the symptoms are mild. The primary characteristic is a gastrointestinal disturbance. The more changes that occur in your daily bowel movements –differences in the frequency or consistency of stools, the presence of pain or cramping, etc. — the more important it is to deal with them.

Common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Diarrhea, constipation or alternating bouts of both
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Mucus in the stool

Remedies

Be picky about what you eat and drink. Avoid sodas and other sugary treats, caffeine, alcohol and fried or processed foods, all of which impede digestion. Try to eat more whole foods, healthy fats (e.g., found in salmon, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds) and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and steamed veggies. What about yogurt that contains live cultures, which is often recommended to encourage bacterial balance in the intestines? According to Dr. Rubman it’s fine, but don’t expect a miracle cure. In his view, this promise is yet another marketing scam. A better alternative is the use of other probiotics.

Monitor food combinations, as these directly influence how quickly and efficiently food is digested, explains Dr. Rubman. For example, don’t combine “white” foods (such as white sugar, white flour, white bread, white potatoes, etc.) with saturated fats (for example, red meat or dairy products). Taken together, these can require as long as two to three hours to digest, during which time microorganisms in the food can colonize the stomach lining and cause digestive disturbances.

Keep fluids with meals to a minimum, and chew food thoroughly. The natural process by which saliva is added to food as it is chewed, to break it down thoroughly in the mouth, sets the rest of the digestive process in motion. So, our habit of washing down food with water or other beverages turns out to be counter-productive. Fluids may also dilute stomach acid, making digestion less efficient.

If you are 35 or older, consider taking supplemental digestive enzymes. Since aging tends to diminish our digestive enzymes, taking a them as a supplement helps the body break down foods into compounds that make nutrients easier to digest, and also work to decrease the number of colonized microorganisms in the stomach. Other digestive aids Dr. Rubman prescribes for his patients include hydrochloric acid supplements, which act as a tonic to the upper GI tract, soothing inflammation and allowing for restoration of normal function and cellular health.