Irritable bowel syndrome referred to as IBS is a commonly occurring gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. It is not a life threatening disease but it can be a painful and frustrating condition and affects the quality of life of the person. The symptoms of this bowel disorder include chronic abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, irregular bowel movements, mucous in stools and alternating diarrhea and constipation. IBS otherwise called as spastic colon or irritable colon has no cure but the symptoms can be eased with proper treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.
Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome:
Irritable bowel syndrome is a mixture of abdominal symptoms for which there is no apparent cause. As it is not clear to identify what causes IBS the treatment focuses on the relief of symptoms and in improving the quality of life of the person. The symptoms associated with this functional disorder can be eased and reduced by changing the dietary habits, implementing lifestyle changes and understanding the nature of the condition. If symptoms are troublesome any of the following treatment of irritable bowel syndrome can be initiated to get relief.
1. Diet: As diet plays a crucial part in the intestinal function implementing changes in the diet can make an extraordinary improvement in all IBS related symptoms. It is best to stay away from diet that is rich in insoluble fiber, high fat, caffeine, coffee, alcohol and carbonated drinks as they can aggravate the condition. The above foods are in fact gastrointestinal irritants or stimulants. Diets rich in soluble fiber is the best remedy for alleviating the symptoms related to Irritable bowel syndrome. Foods that contain soluble fiber are oats, barley, bananas, apples and leafy green vegetables. Soluble fiber modulates the digestive tract, regulates the intestinal contractions and regularizes the bowel function. Soluble fiber cures both constipation and diarrhea. Avoiding cabbage, beans and uncooked cauliflower and broccoli can relieve bloating and gas. People with IBS condition are advisable to eat smaller frequent meals. One should also drink six to eight glasses of water in a day especially if he/she experiences diarrhea.
2. Exercise: Getting, vigorous and regular exercise can also effectively relieve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. The exercises should be of course strenuous enough to increase your heart and breathing rate. Brisk walking, walking uphill, swimming and jogging are considered effective to reduce your tension and regularize your bowel movements. A 30 minute moderate exercise is a must for five days in a week to reduce symptoms of IBS.
3. Probiotics: These are dietary supplements that are touted to improve digestive health. They are believed to contain the friendly bacteria which can kill the harmful bacteria and thereby assure a healthy gut and digestive system. Though there is no scientific evidence that this can relieve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms people taking probiotics regularly find good relief. However it is advisable to strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions and dosage recommendations.
4. Stress management: Stress induces intestinal spasms. Stress triggers IBS symptoms and several studies evidence that there is a connection between emotions that cause stress and consequent irritable bowel syndrome flares. Hence stress management is very essential in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Keeping stress at bay can lower and reduce the severity of IBS symptoms. Stress can be alleviated by practicing relaxation techniques, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and engaging in exercises like walking, swimming and running. If you are particularly stressed then treatment options include psychotherapy, counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy and even talking therapy.
5. Medications: A multitude of medications are used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.
a. Anticholinergic medications: These medications are believed to affect the activities of the autonomic nervous system and relieve painful bowel spasms.
b. Antispasmodic medications: These medicines help in soothing the muscles in the digestive system. Thus they help to reduce abdominal pain and cramping. The side effects associated with these medicines are nil but it is not advisable for pregnant women.
c. Antidepressants: Two types of antidepressants are used for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. The tricyclic antidepressants are prescribed when the antispasmodic medicines fail to treat abdominal cramping and pain. They work towards relaxing the muscles of the digestive system. However they should be taken consistently as the body starts to respond only after two or three weeks when it gets accustomed to the medicine. The next type is the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors which are in fact an alternative form of antidepressants.
d. Antibiotics: If the symptoms of IBS are due to the overgrowth of bacteria then antibiotics are proved to be effective in relieving irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
e. Laxatives: Bulk-forming laxatives are usually prescribed to relieve constipation in case of IBS related constipation. It is recommended to drink plenty of fluids to prevent the laxatives from obstructing the digestive system.
f. Antimotility medicines: These are prescribed for IBS related diarrhea as it works towards slowing down the contractions of muscles in the bowel which in turn slows the speed in which the food passes to the digestive system. This takes more time for the stool to harden.
6. Psychological treatments: If the symptom persists even after a year of treatment of irritable bowel syndrome then it is better to resort to psychological therapies.
a. Hypnotherapy: This is an alternative therapy gaining popularity for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. It is believed to reduce symptoms of abdominal pain and distention by changing your subconscious mind’s attitude towards the symptoms. Hypnosis has improved bowel movements and reduces pain and discomfort.
b. CBT: Cognitive behavioral therapy is yet another type of talking therapy that helps relieve IBS symptoms. It is very effective to combat stress, depression and anxiety.
c. Psychodynamic interpersonal therapy: This is a form of psychotherapy which believes that your subconscious thoughts can affect the way you think and feel. This therapy is also like the talking therapy and has helped many IBS patients in relieving symptoms.
7. Alternative therapies
a. Chiropractic treatment: Studies have evaluated that spine manipulation has a positive effect on the nerves that connect to the intestinal tract and thereby improve symptoms associated with IBS.
b. Acupuncture: Studies have evidenced that acupuncture has provided good relief for IBS symptoms by relaxing muscle spasm and improving bowel irregularities.
Irritable bowel syndrome may be a lifelong condition. However by initiating any of the above mentioned treatment of irritable bowel syndrome one can make their journey through life more comfortable and manageable.