Gut reaction

Fix How You Cope with Stress

Stress doesn’t cause IBS, but it can exacerbate any illness. And at a time in your life when you’re retiring, reorganizing your finances or caring for elderly parents, your stress-o-meter can spike. The result is often an IBS flare-up. Learn to chill out in a warm bath or curl up with a good book. Take up painting or writing and reconnect with friends. Consider joining a support group for people with IBS.

Fix Your Meds

The range of medications targeting IBS symptoms is limited, and they don’t help everyone. Turnbull is a big advocate of learning as much as you can about your own triggers and then taking steps to avoid them – especially if it means you aren’t popping a pill every day for the next 30 years. “It’s hard to know just what long-term problems there might be with that,” he says. But he says probiotics supplements, which contain gut-friendly bacteria, won’t cause any harm and may indeed help. Even off-the-shelf products like Imodium, points out Attara, are non-addictive and can help manage some symptoms.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that a sensitive bowel can force you to make positive lifestyle changes you may have been dismissing, says Vallis. “Your IBS is saying, ‘Hang on, folks. There’s something wrong here, and you gotta take care of it.’” •

What to Watch For

Changes: If you’re over 50, any time you have a shift in bowel habits you should see your doctor. Non-IBS diseases such as bowel cancer are much more treatable when found at an early stage.

Red flags: Bleeding, weight loss, fever and waking at night to have a bowel movement are not symptoms of IBS. See your doctor.

Frauds: Don’t trust everything you read online. “And don’t buy into quick fixes,” says Attara. Make sure it’s posted by a reputable website with medical advisers, such as

© Copyright January 2008 CARP magazine