One of the most commonly addressed medical condition afflicting large numbers of people irrespective of their race, country or community is the Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. Occupying a large content directory in the body of research, conducted by gastroenterologists, is finding answers to this rather perplexing condition. Significant pain and discomfort accompanied by diarrhea or constipation and extreme flatulence is the reason why the stomach experiences severe to abnormal cramps. While easing oneself may relieve the pain temporarily, there is no guarantee when the attack may reoccur. The severity of the pain has disabled many people from carrying on with their routine lives. Understanding why pain occurs and how pain from IBS can be managed better plays a significant role in the well -being of hundreds of thousands afflicted by this malaise.
The Roots Of Pain- Understanding The Digestive Process
Pain in IBS is due to the sudden contraction of the intestine, but what aggravates it further is the hypersensitivity of IBS patients to pain. In fact, because of the low pain threshold, mostÂ Irritable Bowel Syndrome cases have to be treated on a psychological level as well.
Also termed as ‘Spastic Colon’, the sudden contraction of the intestine relates to triggers in the food consumed or due to stress. However, when a colonoscopy is conducted it reveals no abnormality in the colon itself. Pain therefore has little to do with the organ itself but more to do with the manner in which the digestive process occurs. It’s in the dormant state of the IBS where lies many unanswered questions. IBS therefore cannot be termed a disease but merely a repeated and painful symptom of the manner in which the gastro-intestinal tract functions.
Understanding the process Of digestion further proves that IBS though not a disease, is an impairing condition. Normally food ingested by us passes through the intestines in a motion called propulsion. This happens through a simple contraction of the intestinal muscles. However in cases of IBS, there is a disconnect between the movement and the intake of food. It’s a loss in the coordination of the muscular contraction that creates the pain. Apart from this, the hypersensitivity to external stress being able to affect the digestive process in many individuals, heightens the problem. In fact, data collected by medical sources point toward a direct link between major life changes such as a job switch or losing someone dear, to the beginning of IBS. There is also evidence of infections such as gastroenteritis resulting in the problem becoming chronic. There is also enough evidence to indicate the relation between Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO having a direct bearing on the occurrence of IBS.
While understanding the brain-gut connect and visceral hypersensitivity is important, it is equally important to know that the pain is related to IBS. Clear indications that your stomach pain is no longer a mere random occurrence but IBS is when :
*You feel a sudden bloating and pain from the chest downward to your hips.
*A continuous dull ache in the stomach.
*Mucous in the stool.
*Changes in the bowel habit often accompanied by a severely urgent need to pass stool.
*Excessive gas , diarrhea , constipation or alternating phases of all three.
*Increased gastro-colic reflex, which means the urge to pass stool soon after eating.
*Feeling of incomplete emptying of bowels causing much discomfort.
*Sharp and often shooting pain down in the rectal area termed-proctalgia fugax.
These may be accompanied by severe headache, fatigue ,tiredness, sleep disturbance , nausea and loss of appetite.
Fear, distress and helplessness often accompany people diagnosed with IBS. The lack of a yardstick by which the amount of pain suffered makes this condition difficult to explain medically and thus its treatment usually is targeted at its symptoms. An important aspect of providing support to people suffering from the pain of IBS is to validate their experience by being supportive and understanding.
The Best Way Forward:
Diagnosis of the condition is perhaps needed to confirm the medical condition followed by tests that may include colonoscopy, blood tests, barium studies, gastroscopy and ultrasound. Quietly suffering the pain of IBS affects us psychologically and thus the only way forward is to take on the issue clinically.
Medicines suggested by physicians often target the symptoms singularly but more often the IBS condition arises with multiple symptoms making it almost impossible to handle. Though loperamide is given to abate diarrhea and laxatives to combat constipation ,any of these drugs can not be taken over a long period of time. It could lead to drug-dependence and other health complications thereby.
Natural antidotes for IBS pain management include:
*Drinking plenty of water and reducing diuretic intake.
* Increasing the quantity of fibre in food gradually to let the digestive system accustom to it naturally.
*Avoiding large meals that put stress on the intestines, resulting in bloating and cramps.
*Keeping spicy and oily food at bay that are more difficult to digest.
*Keeping track of repeat offenders among foods you eat and avoid them .
* Reducing intake of milk and substituting it with curd and whey that have helpful probiotic bacteria which aid in digestion.
*Limit the intake of bowel irritants such as coffee and alcohol.
*Reducing stress and increasing physical activity also improves our metabolism having a holistic effect on our body.
*Stomach cramp may be treated with heat -packs and hot water bottles in a warm blanket.
*Relaxation techniques that help include yoga and meditation.
Relief from IBS symptoms is often a slow process but it is in the initial handling of the case that decides how well one responds to the line of treatment . Often pain is seen as a grevious injury to any part of the body. In the case of IBS ,the situation needs to be seen differently.The state of psychological arousal heightens pain which then gets into a cyclical mode.
One bout leads to another till a patient can preempt the next attack. Tests have proved that in the case of IBS pain the ability of the person suffering to close the ‘gate of pain’ by focusing on more positive things around has helped greatly. The immense potential of the human mind and its positive energies has yet to be explored fully. Treatments that have used hypnosis have pointed towards a similar conclusion.
While IBS pain may not cause a life threatening situation or damage to any digestive organ but its debilitating aftermath needs to be handled with profound care. Pain resulting from IBS may be treated through dietary changes, medicines , probiotics and psychological treatment. It also requires of the person to remain in a positive frame of mind .