Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects the large intestine. Only a small number of people with IBS have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle, and stress. More-severe symptoms can be treated with medication and counselling. While there is no cure for IBS, there are treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. IBS is not life-threatening, but it can be a long-term issue that alters your lifestyle.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects between 3% and 20% of the population in the United States. Women are more affected than males by this illness. Spastic colon, irritable colon, mucous colitis, and spastic colitis are all terms used to describe IBS. IBS is a combination of stomach ache or discomfort and bowel problems, such as going to the bathroom more or less frequently than usual (diarrhea or constipation) or passing a different type of stool (thin, hard, or soft and liquid). (Herndon, 2019)
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include – abdominal pain or cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, tiredness, anxiety, food intolerance, heartburn and indigestion, headaches, mucus in your poop, etc. (WebMD)
Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The causes of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown, but there are many possible triggers. Triggers can include certain foods, emotional stress, hormonal changes (such as during menstruation), and infection. Factors that appear to play a role include:
- Muscle contractions in the intestine: Layers of muscle line the walls of the intestines, which flex to transport food through your digestive tract. Gas, bloating, and diarrhea might result from contractions that are stronger and stay longer than usual. Food transit can also be slowed by weak intestinal contractions, resulting in firm, dry stools.
- Nervous System: When your abdomen extends from gas or feces, abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive system may cause you to feel more uncomfortable than usual. Due to a lack of coordination between the brain and the intestines, your body may overreact to changes in the digestive process, causing discomfort, diarrhea, or constipation.
- Severe Infection: After an attack of diarrhea (gastroenteritis) caused by bacteria or a virus, IBS might develop. IBS may also be linked to an overabundance of microorganisms in the intestines (bacterial overgrowth).
IBS is also associated with a poor quality of life and mood disorders like anxiety or depression. A history of sexual, physical or emotional abuse also might be a risk factor. (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
Diagnosis and Treatment of IBS
To determine if you have IBS, your doctor may recommend some tests like flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to examine your intestines for evidence of obstruction or inflammation, an upper endoscopy if you experience heartburn or indigestion and X-rays. Anemia (insufficient red blood cells), thyroid issues, and symptoms of infection can all be detected by blood testing. They also might test you for lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, and celiac disease or conduct tests to see whether your intestinal muscles are damaged.
Almost everyone with IBS can benefit from therapy, although no single treatment works for everyone. To manage your symptoms, you and your doctor will need to collaborate to determine the best treatment strategy. IBS symptoms can be triggered by a variety of factors, including specific meals, medications, gas or stool, and mental stress. You’ll need to figure out what sets your triggers off. It’s possible that you’ll need to make certain lifestyle modifications as well as take medicine. (WebMD)
Avoiding caffeine, drinking more water, adding fiber to your diet, limiting dairy products are some of the changes you can make to your daily diet to help with IBS symptoms. Meditation, exercise or any form of relaxation to alleviate stress can also help lead a healthier life for those suffering from IBS. If you think you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome or if your symptoms persist even after treatment, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a real condition that can cause ongoing discomfort.
Herndon, Jaime. “IBS: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Triggers, and Treatment.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 8 Mar. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/irritable-bowel-syndrome#what-is-ibs.
“Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Dec. 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016#:~:text=Irritable%20bowel%20syndrome%20(IBS)%20is,need%20to%20manage%20long%20term.
“Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Medications.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/digestive-diseases-irritable-bowel-syndrome.