The Irritable Tummy - IBS, Diet, and Core Control

I've had the pleasure of talking to many dance, sports, and general fitness instructors as well as health care professionals over the last couple of months; mostly on the topic of safe body mechanics and movement for dancers and athletes.

Interestingly, each time the topic of core control came up so did the topic of bloating and its negative effect on muscle activation. 

It is reported that bloating can result in weak abdominal muscles. This can impact your everyday posture as well as athletic performances. Our previous guest post by Katrina talked in depth about how muscle balance and good posture / muscle control is vital for health. One common cause of bloating could be IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), in which diet plays a big role in its management.


The irritable tummy

IBS, Diet, and Core Control

What is IBS?
IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is a condition of the digestive system, affecting one in seven Australian adults. IBS is characterised by a variety of uncomfortable symptoms including:
·       Abdominal pain
·       Wind (excess)
·       Constipation and/or diarrhoea
·       Bloating

What causes IBS?
The cause of IBS is yet unknown, but certain triggers have been identified and these include:
·       Food intolerance
·       Poor diet
·       Stress
·       Medication
·       Infection

How do I get diagnosed?
The symptoms of IBS are very similar to other gastrointestinal disorders, such as diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, polyps, Coeliac disease, infection, and certain cancers. Therefore it is vital that you get a proper medical check if you suspect IBS in order to rule out the other possible causes.

I have been diagnosed with IBS. What do I do now?
A cure for IBS is yet to be developed, so the current primary treatment is to identify and avoid individual triggers. If you suspect dietary triggers, then trialling a low FODMAP diet has shown to significantly improve the unpleasant symptoms of IBS.

What is the Low FODMAP Diet?
FODMAPs are complex sugar/starches found in a variety of foods we eat. It stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols. These FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in ALL people, however, those with IBS are thought to experience debilitating symptoms due the gut being hypersensitive compared to those without IBS.

The Low FODMAP Diet is the first phase of an investigation strategy. It should be followed for only 2-8 weeks. Subsequent challenges and re-introduction of individual FODMAPs are necessary in order to identify specific individual triggers and tolerance levels.

FODMAPs are in fact vital for health and wellbeing as they feed the good bacteria in the gut and contribute to bowel health. That’s why it’s vital for individuals to find the optimum balance for their FODMAP tolerance instead of sticking to a low FODMAP diet life-long. Think of it like an ankle sprain: you give the ankle a few days of rest, then you slowly introduce rehab exercises to strengthen that ankle. That’s what we want to do with dietary management of IBS. You “rest” on the low FODMAP diet, then “rehab” as you proceed through challenges and liberalisation, so that you “strengthen” your tolerance to its optimal level.
(Image courtesy: Monash University Low FODMAP Diet blog)


As you can see, the Low FODMAP diet requires commitment during the investigation period.
Ultimately, if done properly with an experienced Accredited Practicing Dietitian, it will allow you to maximise food variety whilst minimising unpleasant tummy troubles. It will help you gain more confidence around food and reduce anxiety and stress around social eating.

So if you suffer from IBS and are looking to improve the quality of your life through thorough symptom management, then talking to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian can definitely help.

For more info including research and updates go to Monash University Low FODMAP Diet for IBS