Date PostedApril 1, 2014

Can Foodborne Illness Increase your Risk of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that is associated with abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea or constipation or both. Foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria increase the risk of developing IBS. This is yet another reason to be cautious when handling and preparing food.

IBS is common amongst Australians and bouts of food poisoning can cause a person to develop IBS or irritate a pre-existing condition.

Fortunately irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t cause lasting damage and doesn’t contribute to the development of serious bowel conditions, such as cancer or colitis but the condition can be extremely pain, uncomfortable and inconvenient for sufferers.

Symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain or cramping that is often relieved by passing wind or faeces, alternating diarrhoea and constipation, a sensation that the bowels are not fully emptied after passing a motion, abdominal bloating, nausea or mucus present in stools.

A foodborne infection can lead to IBS.

When a person contracts gastroenteritis it will often result in persistent bowel symptoms, long after the offending bacteria or virus has left the system. There isn’t much research to explain the cause of this but it is believed it may involve changes to nerve function in the bowel or changes in the normal bacterial population of the bowel. A quarter of all IBS cases could be due to this issue.

Avoiding Foodborne Illness

  1. Check for cleanliness wherever you buy food, at the grocery store or at a restaurant. Ensure that the store/ food outlet where you buy food has proper food handling and cleanliness measures in place. It should look and smell clean.
  2. Keep certain foods separated.  Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be separated from other foods in your grocery shopping cart. Place these foods in plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping on other foods. It is also best to separate these foods from other foods at checkout and in your grocery bags.
  3. Inspect cans and jars and don’t but them if they are bulging or dented. If the lids are cracked, loose or bulging, avoid buying them.
  4. When you prepare food at home ensure that you practice good hygiene and begin by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  5. Avoid cross contamination by using separate clean utensils when preparing foods. For example don’t use the same chopping board to chop raw meat and them use it to chop vegetables for a salad as the bacteria from the raw meat will contaminate the salad and cause illness.

Remember safe food handling is important because IBS isn’t the only complication which can be triggered by foodborne illness.

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