Is it IBS? Signs, symptoms and treatment

Is it IBS? Signs, symptoms and treatment

We’ve all likely experienced a bout of abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation in our lives. Food poisoning, a sensitive stomach, or travel may bring on these situations. But if you have IBS, you may be living with these symptoms regularly.

April is National IBS Awareness Month. IBS, AKA Irritable Bowel Syndrome impacts an estimated 10 to 15% of the US population or roughly 3 million people. Unfortunately, many more may be undiagnosed.


Symptoms of IBS can range from abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and gas to chronic constipation. While people may complain of a sour stomach, it’s really the colon (large bowel) that’s affected. We’re talking about poop here.

You may have pain related to bowel movements, a change in bowel frequency, or a change in how your stool looks. It’s important to track how long this has been happening and how often. If you experience the symptoms above at least once a week for the past 3 months or symptoms started a minimum of 6 months ago, you may be diagnosed with IBS.

Dealing with IBS may cause fear of eating due to discomfort and pain. It can make social situations and travel difficult. The sooner it’s diagnosed, the better it can be managed.


Like other gastrointestinal disorders, IBS is multi-factorial. A family history of gastrointestinal disorders (Celiac disease, IBS, colon cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease) is a risk factor in addition to stressful situations, or anxiety related to the beginning of your symptoms.

The brain-gut axis is the connection between our brain and our gut. The hippocampus and amygdala are areas of the brain that regulate depression and anxiety. Scientists believe there’s a link between psychological health and gut microflora (bacteria in the bowel). 2

Bacteria can start inflammatory reactions in the bowel. In addition, our microflora is involved in metabolizing serotonin, a neurotransmitter needed to keep our brains calm. Anxiety and depression are both linked with IBS. 2

Because “what goes in, must come out”, diet plays a big part in IBS. Your doctor may ask about fiber and fluid intake as well as food intolerances, alcohol intake, and exercise. IBS is complicated but manageable.


A blood test may be done to rule out other digestive issues such as Celiac disease or colon cancer. Your doctor may also check for low nutrient levels such as iron, B12, or vitamin D that may be related to blood loss and/or anxiety.

A stool test may also be requested so your doctor can look for infection or blood. As bowel movements are a sensitive topic, men are less likely to discuss symptoms than women and may go undiagnosed or untreated.


As both diet and stress can play an important part in treating IBS, it’s important to track their relationship. Keeping a simple food diary and noting symptoms can help you determine if certain foods are giving you issues. Your doctor may advise a temporary elimination diet called Low FODMAPS. FODMAPS are fermentable, oligo-, mono-, and di-saccharides and polyols, which is a fancy way of saying, “carbohydrates that cause gas and discomfort”.

Common high FODMAPs foods include apples, milk, beans, and certain gassy vegetables. The diet can be difficult to follow but there are low FODMAPs foods that can be eaten without issues such as green beans, carrots, rice, and berries. What bothers some individuals may not impact others.

Working with a registered dietitian will help you follow a low FODMAPs diet and how to prevent nutrient deficiencies. The diet is NOT meant to be used long-term as it can be very restrictive. Reintroducing FODMAPs foods takes time and patience, but typically aids in the resolution of symptoms.

More help

Having support during stressful times is also important in managing IBS. A counselor or therapist can help with stress management and dealing with anxiety. Medications such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs may also be used in treating IBS.

If you’re dealing with symptoms of IBS, don’t wait to get treatment. While it’s uncomfortable to talk about, management is possible. Isn’t making eating enjoyable again worth it? I think so.

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD


  1. Definition & Facts for Irritable Bowel Syndrome | NIDDK (nih.gov)
  2. Moser G, Fournier C, Peter J. Intestinal microbiome-gut-brain axis and irritable bowel syndrome. Intestinale Mikrobiom-Darm-Hirn-Achse und Reizdarmsyndrom. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2018;168(3-4):62-66. doi:10.1007/s10354-017-0592-0



3 Reasons why less meat is best for men

3 Reasons why less meat is best for men

It’s no coincidence that Men’s Health month coincides with Father’s Day in June. It’s a perfect time of year to celebrate the favorite men in your life. June also follows Memorial Day- the official kick off of grilling season!

Unfortunately, this grilling season may be quite a bit different than last year. COVID19 has altered our meat supply in several ways. While farms in America haven plenty of animals raised for meat production, several meat production plants were initially shut down due to coronavirus amongst workers. Amongst those who were forced to close this spring was Tyson meats. Typically known for chicken, Tyson also processes pork and beef. A recent report by USDA weekly noted that beef production is down almost 25% while pork is down 15%. 1

An executive order was signed late April forcing meat packing plants to stay open, despite at least 20 deaths due to coronavirus. In order to make things safer for workers, plants have had to navigate ways to keep workers physically distanced, provide PPE (personal protective equipment) and change hours of operation to reduce the risk of further infection amongst workers. This has reduced the supply across several plants. 2

This reduced supply of meat has not only reduced the availability and variety of meat, but also raised the price. People may respond to this change in a few ways. Those that try to limit their trips to the store and fear the shortage may buy more meat. Others may be adjusting their grocery lists because of reduced income. In the first scenario, the price of meat may be costlier in more ways than one. Here’s why:

Colon Cancer

According to the WHO, colorectal cancer is the third most common types of cancer in men and second most common in women. 3 “Red” meat includes beef, pork, lamb, mutton and veal. The link between red meat intake and colorectal cancer is not new. A 2008 meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer found that a high intake of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%. 4

What is considered a high intake is based on the frequency of red meat intake. A meta-analysis of 13 prospective cohort studies of meat intake and colorectal cancer by researchers from the University of Cambridge and London suggest that daily consumption (roughly 4 oz) of all meat or red meat is linked with 12 to 17% increased risk of colorectal cancer. A daily intake of processed meat (such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, brat/metts) raised the risk by 49%. 5

Scientists believe heme, which is present in poultry and fish in lower quantities, may promote the development of cancer in the intestine. Heme iron gets degraded and releases free ferrous iron, which can promote cancer through production of N Nitroso compounds (-N-nitrosamines and N-nitrosamides). These are carcinogenic compounds made in the colon through various chemical pathways. N Nitroso compounds are also present in processed meat as mentioned above. 4

In addition, grilling meat produces HCAs and PAHS (heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These carcinogenic compounds are also produced through other high heat cooking methods including frying. Individuals with a family history are more susceptible to the risk of colon cancer than others. 6

Heart Disease

Heart disease remains the number one killer in the US and men are highly susceptible to this chronic disease. Going easy on red meat may help. A 2018 study suggests that increased levels of a compound called tremethlyamine N-oxide (TMAO) that’s made in the gut, is associated with heart disease. Researchers discovered that people who consume a lot of red meat have three times the TMAO levels compared to those who eat a diet containing mostly white meat or plant-based proteins. Stopping red meat consumption can reverse the effect and reduce TMAO levels. 7

The way in which TMAO impacts heart disease is complicated. Previous studies have found that TMAO exacerbates cholesterol deposition in the cells of arterial walls. Research studies also hint that TMAO interacts with platelets, blood cells needed for normal clotting function, in that they increase the chance for clot-related events like heart attack and stroke. 7

In addition, a recent study in JAMA this past February from Northwestern University finds a link with red meat intake (and other meat, except fish) and heart disease. Eating two servings of red meat, processed meat or poultry (but not fish), weekly was associated with a 3 to 7% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The study included over 29,000 people, of which 44% were men. Diet data was self-reported. The authors note the cooking method in the chicken (i.e. fried) may have made a difference in risk. 8


When people think of the risk factors for diabetes, most think of carb intake- specifically processed/simple carbohydrates. However, red meat intake may factor into risk as well. As mentioned above, heme (found in animal foods) may have a role in the development of diabetes. A large Chinese cohort study of over 63,000 adults showed that those with the highest red meat intake had a 23% increased risk of developing diabetes and 15% higher chance with poultry. Researchers note that even after adjusting for other heme content, red meat consumption was still a risk factor for diabetes. 9

Additional studies of red meat intake and risk of diabetes show similar results. An Israeli study of over 350 adults found that eating more than one serving (3.5 oz) of processed meat weekly is linked with NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and insulin resistance. Fatty liver disease is a risk factor for diabetes. The researchers note the method of cooking also made a difference. HCAs produced through high heat (grilling, frying or broiling) raises the risk for diabetes in addition to colorectal cancer (mentioned previously). 10

To reduce risk of the above chronic diseases, the following is suggested:

  • Limit red meat consumption to once/week and keep portions small (3-4 oz.)
  • Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs, sausage and other cured meats.
  • Substitute fish or chicken on the grill for beef or pork.
  • Marinate meat for at least 15 minutes before grilling. This reduces the production of HCAs and PAHS.
  • Include fruits or veggies on the grill to boost antioxidant intake, which aids in cancer prevention.
  • Maintain a healthy weight through portion control, regular exercise and adequate sleep.

These tips may help men have the chance to celebrate more Father’s Days.


  1. https://www.ams.usda.gov/market-news/weekly-pork-reports
  2. https://time.com/5830178/meat-shortages-coronavirus/
  3. Nuri Faruk Aykan1 Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer Oncol Rev. 2015 Feb 10; 9(1): 288.
  4. Smolińska K, Paluszkiewicz P. Risk of colorectal cancer in relation to frequency and total amount of red meat consumption. Systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Med Sci 2010;6:605-10.
  5. Sandhu MS, White IR, McPherson K. Systematic review of the prospective cohort studies on meat consumption and colorectal cancer risk: a meta-analytical approach. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2001;5:439-46.
  6. Justyna Klusek,1,*Anna Nasierowska-Guttmejer,2 Artur Kowalik,3 Iwona Wawrzycka,1,4 Magdalena Chrapek,5 Piotr Lewitowicz,2 Agnieszka Radowicz-Chil,2 Jolanta Klusek,6 and Stanisław Głuszek1,4 The Influence of Red Meat on Colorectal Cancer Occurrence Is Dependent on the Genetic Polymorphisms of S-Glutathione Transferase Genes. Nutrients. 2019 Jul; 11(7): 1682.
  7. Zeneng Wang et al. Impact of chronic dietary red meat, white meat, or non-meat protein on trimethylamine N-oxide metabolism and renal excretion in healthy men and womenEuropean Heart Journal, 2018 DOI: 1093/eurheartj/ehy799
  8. Victor W. Zhong, Linda Van Horn, Philip Greenland, Mercedes R. Carnethon, Hongyan Ning, John T. Wilkins, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, Norrina B. Allen. Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause MortalityJAMA Internal Medicine, 2020.
  9. Mohammad Talaei, Ye-Li Wang, Jian-Min Yuan, An Pan, Woon-Puay Koh. Meat, Dietary Heme Iron, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes MellitusAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, 2017; 1 DOI: 1093/aje/kwx156
  10. Zelber-Sag S. High red and processed meat consumption is associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. Journal of Hepatology. Online March 18, 2018. Available at: http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(18)30058-8/fulltext Accessed March 23, 2018.

This post originally appeared on Dietitian Pros:


Hot Cereal on Cold Days

Hot Cereal on Cold Days

As temperatures dip a little faster than we’d like, it’s hard to get excited about cold cereal for breakfast. Why not try a bowl of hot cereal that will warm you from the inside out? There’s so many to choose from oatmeal (regular & instant), cream of wheat, grits, rice, etc, but are all hot cereals created equal?

DASH Diet- bite this, not that!

DASH Diet- bite this, not that!

HTN (high blood pressure) affects 29% of US Adults, which is 1 in 3 people.  Having high blood pressure greatly increases the risk of developing heart disease or strokes.  High BP is genetic, but there are several dietary changes that can lower it.


Bite this:


  1. Fruits & veggies. September is fruits & veggies- more matters month. People with HTN should aim for 4 servings of fruit and 4 or more servings of veggies/day.   Dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli are good sources of potassium as are dark orange fruits and vegetables like citrus (oranges/grapefruit), peaches, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and squash.  Kiwi, bananas and tomatoes are also high in potassium.


  1. High calcium foods, like dairy products. Dairy is not just for strong bones and teeth.  Studies show that people who have higher calcium intakes, have lower blood pressure.  Choose low sodium string cheese, low fat yogurt, skim or 1% milk.  Two servings/day are advised.  5% or less sodium is advised on cheese (read labels)


  1. Nuts, seeds and legumes. These foods are high in magnesium, potassium and fiber, all of which are heart-healthy.  Aim for 4-5 servings/week (small handful, ¼ cup is a serving for nuts, ½ cup for beans or peas).


  1. Whole grains. Whole grains like steel cut oats, bulgur, 100% whole wheat bread are high in magnesium and fiber, which have been shown to lower blood pressure. Aim for at least 3 servings/day.


Not that:

  1. High sodium foods. Sorry bacon and hot dogs. Your high sodium, high fat content does not make the cut here.  Sodium raises blood pressure.  Even “healthy” lunch meat (like turkey breast) can be high in sodium.


  1. Excessive alcohol intake raises blood pressure.  Moderation is 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men.  Too much can cause weight gain, fatty liver and increased risk for several cancers.


  1. Excess caffeine. Caffeine raises blood pressure temporarily, so don’t drink in excess.  Both light and dark roasts contain about the same amount of caffeine.  Arabica coffee, which is more expensive, will contain LESS caffeine.  One cup/day provides 250-600 mg caffeine.


  1. High calorie/junk food: Excess calories lead to weight gain, which affects blood pressure.  An analysis of controlled studies showed that an 11 lb. weight loss would lower blood pressure by 4.44 mm systolic and 3.57 mm diastolic. The top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of your heart muscle (systolic pressure). The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. (diastolic pressure).
Savory Salads

Savory Salads

Salads need not be boring. Adding fruit, nuts, cheese and a protein source likes beans or grilled chicken not only improves the taste and texture of salad, but can also raise the nutrient content of your favorite greens. You can also add cooked/cooled grains to make your salad a complete meal. Mix and match the following ingredients in your next salad.


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