What is Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) ?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). Irritable bowel syndrome commonly causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas. IBS is a chronic condition that you will need to manage long term.
Only a small number of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing stress, lifestyle and diet. Others will need medication and counseling.
Even though symptoms and signs are uncomfortable, Irritable bowel syndrome, unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
The signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. Among the most common are:
- For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although there will likely be times when the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) Symptoms
The symptoms of IBS are usually worse after eating and tend to go and come in episodes.
Most people have flare-ups of symptoms that last a few days. After this time, the symptoms usually improve, but may not disappear completely.
In some people, the symptoms seem to be triggered by something they have had to drink or eat.
The most common symptoms of IBS are:
- Diarrhea or constipation, sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
- Mucus in the stool
- abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping.
- bloating of your stomach
- Excessive wind (flatulence).
- Occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet.
In addition to the main symptoms described above, some people with IBS experience a number of other problems. These can include:
- A lack of energy (lethargy).
- Feeling sick.
- Bladder problems (such as needing to wake up to urinate at night, experiencing an urgent need to urinate and difficulty fully emptying the bladder).
- Pain during sex (dyspareunia).
The symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome can also have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life and can have a deep psychological impact. As a result, many people with the condition have feelings of depression and anxiety.
Symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain that occurs or progresses at night
- Weight loss
Your doctor may be able to help you find ways to relieve symptoms as well as rule out colon conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. Your doctor can also help you avoid possible complications from problems such as chronic diarrhea.
Irritable bowel syndrome causes:
Health experts believe that faulty communication between the brain and the intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms. In some people, this miscommunication causes abnormal muscle contractions or spasms, which often cause cramping pain.
Many people who have IBS seem to have unusually sensitive intestines. It isn’t known why their intestines are more likely to react strongly to the elements that contribute to IBS. People who have IBS may start having symptoms because of one or more factors, including:
- Eating (though no particular foods have been linked with IBS).
- Stress and psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression.
- Hormonal changes, such as during the menstrual cycle.*
- Some medicines, such as antibiotics.
- An infection in the digestive tract, such as salmonella.
- Genetics. IBS may be more likely to occur in people who have a family history of the disorder.
There is also some evidence to suggest that psychological factors play an important role in IBS.
This does not mean that IBS is “all in the mind”, because symptoms are very real. Intense emotional states such as stress and anxiety can trigger chemical changes that interfere with the normal workings of the digestive system.
This does not just happen in people with IBS. Many people who have never had IBS before can have a sudden change in bowel habits when faced with a stressful situation, such as an important exam or job interview.
Some people with IBS have experienced a traumatic event, usually during their childhood, such as abuse, neglect, a serious childhood illness or bereavement.
It is possible that these types of difficult experiences in your past may make you more sensitive to stress and the symptoms of pain and discomfort.
Foods cause irritable bowel syndrome?
Certain foods and drinks can trigger the symptoms of IBS. Triggers vary from person to person, but common ones include:
- Fizzy drinks.
- Drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea or cola.
- Processed snacks, such as biscuits and crisps.
- Fatty or fried food.
Keeping a food diary may be a useful way of identifying possible triggers in your diet.
Stress is another common trigger of IBS symptoms. Finding ways to manage stressful situations is an important part of treating the condition.
The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn’t known. Health experts believe that faulty communication between the brain and the intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms. In some people, this miscommunication causes abnormal muscle contractions or spasms, which often cause cramping pain. The spasms may speed the passage of stool, causing diarrhea. Or they may slow it down, causing constipation or bloating.
Irritable bowel syndrome treatment
Medication specifically for IBS
Two medications are currently approved for specific cases of IBS:
Alosetron (Lotronex). Alosetron is designed to relax the colon and slow the movement of waste through the lower bowel. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed it from the market for a time, but has since allowed alosetron to be sold again.
Lubiprostone works by increasing fluid secretion in your small intestine to help with the passage of stool. It is approved for women age 18 and older who have IBS with constipation. Lubiprostone is generally prescribed only for women with IBS and severe constipation for whom other treatments haven’t been successful.
Lifestyle and home remedies for IBS
In many cases, simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome. Your body may not respond immediately to these changes, your goal is to find long-term, not temporary, solutions:
Don’t skip meals, and try to eat about the same time each day to help regulate bowel function. If you’re constipated, eating larger amounts of high-fiber foods may help move food through your intestines.
Or use an enzyme product to help break down lactose. Consuming small amounts of milk products or combining them with other foods also may help. In some cases, though, you may need to stop eating dairy foods completely.
Try to drink plenty of fluids every day. Alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine stimulate your intestines and can make diarrhea worse, and carbonated drinks can produce gas.
Use anti-diarrheal medications and laxatives with caution. If you try over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications, such as Imodium or Kaopectate, use the lowest dose that helps. Imodium may be helpful if taken 20 to 30 minutes before eating, especially if you know that the food planned for your meal is likely to cause diarrhea.
High Fiber foods
Examples of High Fiber foods : whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. If certain foods make your symptoms and signs worse, don’t eat them. If you’re constipated, eating larger amounts of high-fiber foods may help move food through your intestines.
Consuming small amounts of milk products or combining them with other foods also may help. Imodium may be helpful if taken 20 to 30 minutes before eating, especially if you know that the food planned for your meal is likely to cause diarrhea.
Avoid problem foods. Don’t eat them if certain foods make your symptoms and signs worse. These may include alcohol, chocolate, caffeinated beverages such as coffee and sodas, medications that contain caffeine, dairy products, and sugar-free sweeteners such as sorbitol or mannitol.
Some people do better limiting dietary fiber and instead take a fiber supplement that causes less gas and bloating. If you take a fiber supplement, such as Metamucil or Citrucel, be sure to introduce it slowly and drink plenty of water every day to reduce gas, bloating and constipation. Use it on a regular basis for best results if you find that taking fiber helps your IBS.
If gas is a problem for you, foods that might make symptoms worse include beans, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Fatty foods also may be a problem for some people. Chewing gum or drinking through a straw can lead to swallowing air, causing more gas.
Alternative Treatment of IBS
The following nontraditional therapies may help relieve symptoms of IBS:
Hypnosis may reduce abdominal pain and bloating. A trained professional teaches you how to enter a relaxed state and then guides you in relaxing your abdominal muscles.
Recent studies suggest that certain probiotics may relieve symptoms of IBS, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and quality of life, although additional investigation is needed.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that normally live in your intestines and are found in certain foods, such as yogurt, and in dietary supplements. It’s been suggested that if you have irritable bowel syndrome, you may not have enough good bacteria and that adding probiotics to your diet may help ease your symptoms.
Massage, Meditation or Yoga
Regular exercise, massage, meditation or yoga. These can all be useful ways to relieve stress. You can take classes in yoga and meditation or practice at home using videos or books.
Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic that relaxes smooth muscles in the intestines. Peppermint may provide short-term relief of IBS symptoms, but study results have been inconsistent. If you ‘d like to try peppermint, be sure to use enteric-coated capsules.