What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS refers to a medical disorder affecting the large intestine. This illness causes discomforting abdominal pain and cramping. The person with IBS likewise often suffers from constipation and bloating as well as recurrent bouts of diarrhea. Nearly 20 million people worldwide are affected by this condition with some enduring several disabling symptoms.
The objective of the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome is to aid those affected in managing the distressing symptoms. Though IBS does not increase the risk of intestinal diseases, but its uncomfortable symptoms may aggravate and result in hemorrhoids. The condition is manageable through lifestyle and dietary changes.
Why causes irritable bowel syndrome?
Experts are still puzzled as to the exact cause of IBS but they believe that it occurs due to an extremely sensitive large intestine. The disorder might be a result of the imbalance of bacteria in the intestines and abnormal levels of serotonin. Under normal conditions, the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract move in a coordinated manner as food passes from the stomach to the rectum. In the case of IBS, muscle movements are either stronger or slower thereby giving rise to either diarrhea or constipation. The following conditions are known to cause IBS.
- Abnormal muscle contractions
- Mental health problems
- Nerve sensitivity
- Problems with the brain-gut signal
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
- Bacterial infection
Irritable Bowel Symptoms in women
Although anyone can suffer from IBS, some people experience it more frequently than others. This is especially so if the person has the risk factors of IBS, and one of which is a history of the disease in the family. Usually, women are at higher risk to suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Being a woman and aged 35 years old and below is a typical profile of a person who has IBS. The condition occurs in about 1 out 5 adult Americans or 20% of the total adult population. 75 percent of people who have irritable bowel syndrome are women.
People suffering from IBS have differing signs and symptoms. In fact, it is sometimes misdiagnosed due to its similarity to other diseases. But the most common manifestations of IBS include bloating, flatulence or gas and abdominal cramping. Sufferers could show symptoms of either constipation or diarrhea. It was also noted that women exhibit more IBS symptoms than men especially during their period. The severity of this condition may also differ between individuals, ranging from mild to severe.
Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome something to be worried about?
IBS is not a precursor of more serious medical conditions nor does it bring permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract, so sufferers should not be too worried about it. However, the condition may have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life, restricting him or her from enjoying life to the fullest. IBS prevents the affected individual from engaging in social activities as the symptoms may be hard to bear while away from home. In addition, the disorder can also affect the sex life of the patient. Even though IBS is not related to any kind of serious intestinal disease, bowel habits that are constantly changing require medical attention. Patients should also visit the doctor if IBS comes with other symptoms to rule out graver medical conditions.
How is IBS diagnosed?
IBS symptoms often come and go, thus, making the diagnosis is quite tricky. This is the reason why patients often find themselves going through a number of exams and diagnostic tests before IBS is conclusively determined. Aside from considering the person’s medical history and conducting a physical exam, the following tests may also be performed.
- Blood test
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Lactose intolerance test
- Stool test
- CT Scan
Irritable Bowel Syndrome treatment
IBS treatment differs for every individual, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms he or she is experiencing. This requires physicians and patients to work hand-in-hand to make the treatment succeed. Since the exact cause is not fully understood, the treatment for irritable bowel syndrome focuses on alleviating the symptoms to improve the quality of life of the patient. Treatment may involve:
- Avoiding foods and beverages that may trigger the condition
Certain foods and beverages can trigger IBS, so avoiding them greatly helps in assuaging the symptoms. These include fatty foods, raw vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and beans, carbonated beverages and alcohol.
- Taking certain medications
Medications may likewise be used to manage the symptoms. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and anti-cholinergics. Medications for constipation and diarrhea may also be utilized.
- Undergoing certain therapies
Therapy is another form of IBS treatment to relieve stress-related symptoms. This could either be stress management therapy, psychological therapy or counseling.
- Engaging in regular exercise
Regular exercise also helps in improving the condition as it helps in reducing tension, therefore, making bowel movements regular. Sufferers may engage in brisk walking, jogging and swimming.
- Taking fiber supplements
Fiber supplements may also be recommended to manage constipation.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a lingering medical condition that requires close monitoring by the doctor to manage the symptoms effectively.