(StatePoint) For millions of adults in the United States, daily activities like going to work or school may also be accompanied by bothersome gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain and constipation. People may not talk to their doctor about these symptoms because they’re embarrassed and find the conversation a difficult one to have. They suffer in silence.
Recurring abdominal pain and constipation, including hard stools and infrequent and incomplete bowel movements, may indicate a chronic gastrointestinal (GI) condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) or, without the presence of abdominal pain, chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC).
There is no cure for these conditions, but there are ways to help manage the symptoms, starting with a candid conversation with a doctor, sparing none of the nitty-gritty details. The time to start the conversation is now — April is IBS Awareness Month.
Dr. Steven Lamm, internist and author of “No Guts, No Glory” says patients don’t always communicate all their symptoms to a doctor even when those symptoms may have a negative impact on their lives. “Patients must have candid discussions with their physician to find treatments that work best for them. No one should feel embarrassed to talk about symptoms such as abdominal pain and constipation.”
Here are some tips from Dr. Lamm:
• More exercise, less stress: Increased exercise and stress reduction have been shown to help relieve symptoms. Relaxation techniques may help in stressful situations, and increasing exercise like walking and yoga may also help. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
• Change your diet: Fiber may help create softer stools that are easier to pass. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, beans, and bran flakes. For IBS-C sufferers, fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks may worsen symptoms. Having smaller portions or smaller meals more often may also help. Some people with IBS may have intolerances to certain sugars such as fructose or lactose. Limiting intake of foods containing these sugars may also be helpful.
• Drink plenty of water: About six to eight glasses of water daily are important to stay hydrated.
• Over-the-counter (OTC) products: Laxatives and stool softeners are approved to treat occasional constipation. These products are not intended for long-term use without supervision of a physician and are not FDA approved for IBS-C treatment.
• Talk to your doctor: Tell your doctor all of your symptoms, as well as treatments that have or have not worked for you. Your doctor may prescribe a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that targets your symptoms associated with IBS-C or CIC.
Learning about and improving your GI health should be a part of your daily life. Take charge by speaking to your doctor and telling it like it is, sparing none of the nitty-gritty details.