Irritable bowel syndrome, known as (IBS), is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder, which causes abdominal pain, cramps, bloating and abnormal bowel movements that may disrupt life. The symptoms usually return from time to time, and IBS is influenced by factors like stress, diet and some environmental causes. IBS is not a life-threatening, contagious, inherited or cancerous disease, and the onset occurs before the age of 35 in most of the cases.
There are no specific reasons for developing IBS, and it can start at any age and is generally found in more women than men. People suffering from IBS may have sensitive intestines or problems with the way the intestinal muscles move.
Sometimes intestinal infections may cause IBS and there may be other triggers like:
- Interplay of unusual gastrointestinal tract movements
- A change in the communication between the person’s brain and his gastrointestinal tract
- Â Increased awareness of normal bodily functions
- Abnormal movements of the colon
Most people suffering from IBS have mild symptoms that they may not go in for a medical check-up, but it may vary from mild to severe and it is also not the same in everyone. They may lose appetite, have abdominal discomfort and pain, and may suffer between constipation and diarrhea. The main symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain, which is relieved with bowel movements
- Alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation
- Change in the stool frequency
- Abdominal distension
- Mucus in the stools
IBS may sometimes have other symptoms that do not affect the intestines, like:
- Anxiety or depression
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Sleeping problems
- Heart palpitations
- Urinary symptoms
These IBS symptoms often occur during stressful times, menstruation or after a meal.
When a person suffers from these symptoms or from unusual symptoms, a health care practitioner should be consulted. A physical examination with a combination of selected tests and history is used to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. It cannot be diagnosed with a single blood test or x-ray.
IBS treatment helps to relieve symptoms, and certain lifestyle changes like vigorous exercise and proper sleep habits may help to reduce anxiety and thus help relieve bowel symptoms. As the IBS condition differs between people, no particular diet is helpful. However, by following some changes the symptoms can be reduced.
- Avoid large meals
- Avoid foods that may stimulate the intestine
- Increase fiber intake, as fiber expands the inside of the digestive tract and it promotes regular bowel movements
- Drink plenty of water
- Low fat and high carbohydrate meals may help relieve IBS symptoms
- Eat slowly and have meals in a relaxing environment
- Stress may trigger IBS flares, and it can be reduced with exercise and regular balanced meals.
People suffering from long-lasting IBS problems require prescription medications, such as antispasmodic and anti-diarrheal medicines, and antidepressants.
Coping with irritable bowel syndrome presents a number of challenges, and even though there is no cure for this disorder, treatments are available. Learning about the syndrome and keeping track of the symptoms will be helpful to deal with IBS.