Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Many people confuse irritable bowel syndrome with other bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or sometimes with ulcerative colitis. So, it is necessary to get a clear idea of what is IBS or irritable bowel syndrome.

What is IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome? 

IBS is a disorder which affects the colon (large intestine). It causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, cramping and bloating gas. However, it does not cause any serious damage to the colon. Unlike the serious intestinal diseases that cause inflammation or bowel tissue changes, IBS is not responsible for serious inflammation and does not cause colorectal cancer. Many people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome learn to control this condition by managing their diet, lifestyle and stress.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of IBS may vary with people, but the common symptoms are:

* Abdominal pain or cramping
* Gas
* A bloated feeling
* Diarrhea or constipation
* Mucus in the stool

While in some people the signs may only be mild, it can be disabling in others. In some people the symptoms can occur with other more serious diseases, so it is best to consult the doctor.

Causes

The intestinal walls have several layers of muscles, which contract and relax in a set rhythm to pass the food from the stomach to the intestinal tract and then to the rectum. In people suffering from IBS, the muscle contraction is stronger and lasts longer. This forces the food into the intestine more quickly, and this causes bloating, gas or diarrhea. In some people, the passage of food is slowed down and this may cause hard and dry stools.

Abnormalities in the colon or nervous system can also be the cause for IBS and it may cause discomfort when the walls of the intestine stretch from gas. Abnormalities in the level of serotonin, a chemical that has a role in the normal functioning of the digestive system, and the imbalance in the level helpful bacteria in the intestine may also cause irritable bowel syndrome.

Triggers

People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome react strongly to certain things that do not bother other people. For example:

* Food: Certain foods like milk, chocolate and alcohol can worsen the signs of IBS and may further cause constipation and diarrhea. Some fruits, vegetables and carbonated beverages may also lead to discomfort and bloating.
* Stress: Stress worsens the signs of IBS. Even though stress may be a cause to aggravate IBS, it does not cause them.
* Hormones: IBS seems to be common with women, so it is believed that hormones play a role. Signs of IBS become worse during menstrual cycles.

More women, young people and people with a family history of IBS are at a higher risk of the condition.

Treatments

Treatments for IBS focus on the relief of symptoms, but if the problem is moderate or severe, then the physician may advice:

* Fiber supplements
* Anti-diarrheal medications
* Eliminating high-gas food
* Anticholinergic medications
* Antidepressants
* Antibiotics
* Counseling.

Lifestyle and Diet Changes

Simple lifestyle and diet changes can provide relief from IBS. They are:

* Increase in intake of fiber rich diet
* Avoid food that worsens the signs
* Eat smaller meals
* Take care with dairy food
* Drink plenty of liquids
* Exercise regularly
* Appropriate use of medications and laxatives.

Living with IBS can be painful and embarrassing, and it may affect the life of the person. Learn about irritable bowel syndrome, as being well informed about this condition may help the person to have control over it. People should identify the factors that trigger IBS, so that they can manage and have control over their life.

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