By: Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, B.A., M.Sc.
For those of you with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you know that it is nothing to mess around with. Certain foods, drinks and exercises may cause major discomfort, not to mention stress and changes in meal times can mean you will experience debilitating abdominal pain.
The good news is, there is increasing interest from researchers to find out, not only what causes the symptoms that make up IBS, but also what can help to alleviate symptoms.
Here we will review the basic facts and figures of IBS, as well as discuss research that reveals how certain foods, mango among them, can reduce IBS symptoms.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (also known as IBS colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, nervous colon and spastic bowel) is a relatively common gastrointestinal disorder that affects about 12% of people in the US alone. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases define it as “a group of symptoms that occur together, including repeated pain in your abdomen and changes in your bowel movement, which may be diarrhea, constipation, or both.”
While there are physical symptoms of IBS, there is typically no visible damage to your digestive tract, which can make it very hard to diagnose if patients do not find the right doctor.
What Are the Symptoms of IBS?
IBS symptoms can not only be uncomfortable, they can also be debilitatingly painful. It is not like an upset stomach, where the pain will subside after medication. IBS is chronic pain – and most people with IBS have to simply learn what triggers it.
Some of the most common symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
- Mucus in stool
Who Does IBS Affect?
People who are most likely to have IBS (whether diagnosed or not) include:
- Women – it is about twice as common in women than men
- Younger people – although IBS can affect people of all ages, you are more likely to have it if you are under 40
- People with a family member with IBS
- People with emotional trouble – this includes stress, mental disorders and PTSD. There is clear evidence that links stress and IBS, and how stress management can improve IBS symptoms.
Basic Treatment and Diet
The most common treatment for IBS usually involves a team of medical doctors and specialists, including an internist, a gastroenterologist and a registered dietician.
First, it is important for them to identify and understand what triggered the IBS in the first place to then determine the best strategy for treatment. Your treatment team may suggest both over-the-counter and prescription medications to manage symptoms.
Secondly, it is very important to adopt changes in the diet. The most common diet prescribed is the low FODMAP diet (FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are all types of carbohydrates that aren’t easily absorbed in the intestine). FODMAPs aren’t the cause of IBS, but avoiding them may help to reduce symptoms.
It is also important to avoid foods that are high in fructose. Apples, figs, pears, watermelon, and mango are all high in fructose, so doctors and nutritionists have traditionally warned against eating these foods, among many others. However, new research suggests that mangoes might actually help to reduce inflammation.
New Research About How Mango May Reduce IBS Symptoms
This is where things get interesting. Even though mango has been kept out of the diet recommended to people with IBS because of its high fructose content, new research suggests mango has a component that might actually help to reduce inflammation related to IBS-like symptoms.
Two types of polyphenolics, namely gallic acid and gallotannins, have been known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Mango is one food that is high in polyphenolics.
This research, carried out in a laboratory setting, administered pieces of mango to rats with bowel inflammation. It was found that mango, together with pomegranate juice, as described in the study, reduced inflammation of the colon.
While more studies need to be carried out, it seems that mango may be different from other fruits high in fructose, as it contains a component that helps to reduce inflammation that can cause inflammation caused by bowel discomfort and pain, like that of IBS.
IBS has only recently been identified as different from other bowel and abdominal disorders, so there is still a lot of research to be done. However, because it is a widespread problem, researchers are hard at work to identify the best way to manage IBS symptoms, while also searching for ways to cure it altogether.
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