Share the message

Managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS lady

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS is a very common disorder affecting the colon. To some, the subject of IBS may be an embarrassing one to address, and yet so many suffer from the same problem. Although IBS is a chronic conditions, there are ways to treat it and live a much more comfortable life.

IBS Symptoms

IBS causes cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, gas and constipation. Unlike some other bowel diseases, those with IBS do not have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Most find IBS to be mildly uncomfortable; only a small amount of people have severe symptoms. For some, IBS management is an alteration in diet, for others medication may be necessary. In either case, a physician should be consulted to make a plan for treatment. It is also important to know for sure whether you are suffering from is IBS and not symptoms related to something more serious, such as colon cancer.

Diagnosing IBS

Because several intestinal disorders show similar symptoms to IBS, a physician will base your particular symptoms on a set of criteria to determine whether or not you suffer from IBS. A blood test may also be performed to rule out other diseases and narrow down the root cause.

When to be Concerned

The times to be concerned are when the following symptoms present themselves:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night
  • Weight loss

Risk Factors

  • You have a family history of IBS
  • Are highly anxious
  • Are a woman (women are twice as likely to have IBS)
  • Are under the age of 45

What causes IBS?

Though the exact cause of IBS is unknown, it is known that there are many factors which can lead to it. The main factor has to do with the intestinal wall. The intestines expand and contract as food moves through the body. For some people, the intestinal wall may be thicker, causing bloating or gas. For others, it may be weaker, leading to constipation. Simply put, the intestines are delicate, and when the lining of the intestinal wall is even a little off, it can impact proper digestion.

What triggers an episode of IBS?

IBS is chronic and, because the body is so sensitive, it can be triggered by a number of things:

  • Food allergies (or food intolerance) – for some people, certain foods can trigger an episode of IBS.
  • Stress
  • Hormones – women are twice as likely to have IBS and, because women experience hormonal shifts, they are likely to have more frequent episodes.

Treatment for IBS

There are things you can do both at home and with a doctor to treat IBS. Some of these options are as follows:

  • Managing your diet- if certain foods are triggering your IBS, removal of these foods will help alleviate the symptoms
  • Eliminating lactose (lactose is thought to worsen the effects of IBS)
  • Integrating dietary fiber into your daily consumption to improve digestion
  • Managing stress. Stress can worsen the effects of IBS, so counseling, support groups, and exercise are often recommended
  • Medication (antidiarrheal, anti anxiety, anti depressants etc.)Though medication cannot cure IBS, it can help make the symptoms more manageable

The important  thing to remember is that IBS is manageable, and with the appropriate diet and action plan determined by your physician, you can lead a comfortable life.

References.

  1. Mayo Clinic: Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20024578. Accessed August 23 2015.
  2. UpToDate: Patient Information: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Beyond the Basics). Available from: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/irritable-bowel-syndrome-beyond-the-basics. Accessed October 20, 2015
    Photo Credit: thejaan via Compfight cc

Ask a Quick Question

Please complete the form below and we'll get back to you within 48 hours with a response

Rate This Article

User rating: 4 out of 5 with 3 ratings

Recommended Doctor

Pitulak Aswakul, M.D. Summary: Internal Medicine Internal Medicine