Irritable bowel syndrome has affected more than 55 million Americans. IBS is a common disorder affecting the colon or large intestine. The main issue with this syndrome is constipation and many people have abdominal pain and bloated feeling. Exact cause of IBS is not known and the major symptoms are flatulence and constipation. Though this disorder provides uncomfortable symptoms and pain in the abdomen, still it cause no permanent damage to the intestine. It is possible to control IBS by making little changes in your diet and reducing stress.
Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome :
A panel of experts have drawn list of symptoms based on common signs of people having irritable bowel syndrome. These symptoms are described as Rome III criteria so that one can differentiate these symptoms from common intestinal problems. The symptoms provided below are common and it is not necessary that one person will have all the symptoms given below.
The basic criteria for IBS are you should have at least 3 times pain in your abdomen in a month for three months continuously. Three statements given below should match your case, in case you have IBS.
- After passing stool the abdominal pain is absent
- The abdominal pain have direct relation with any changes in the number of times you pass bowel movement in a day
- The abdominal pain is directly linked with the consistency and appearance of your stool
If you have at least 2 out of 3 given statements then it indicates that you have irritable bowel syndrome.
Common Signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are as follows:-
- Bloated feeling
- Moderate to severe abdominal pain which disappears after passing stool
- Constipation is often present; sometimes you may have diarrhea
- Heartburn, gas or flatulence
- You may have mucus in your stool
Difference in Bowel Movement :
Individuals with IBS will not have the same pattern of bowel movement all the time. Very often, diarrhea and constipation problem will be the routine. Either they will have 3 bowel movements in the same day (this happens very often) or will have less than 3 bowel movements in the whole week.
Bowel movements will often change consistency and appearance. Sometimes it will be hard and other times it will be watery or loose. Often these people will strain themselves while passing stool. They will have urgent feeling for bowel movement several times but after passing the stool, they feel as if they have not completely passed the stool.
Intestinal Symptoms :
There can be pain or cramps in the lower abdominal area due to constipation. Some people may have mild pain and diarrhea. Mucus will be present in their stool.
Other Symptoms :
Unpleasant taste in your mouth, anxiety, tiredness, headache, backache and urinary symptoms are less common. Some of the above symptoms will occur after taking a meal or when the person is stressed. Women will have more of the above symptoms during menstruation time than regular time. IBS can become chronic if not treated early and the symptoms can become worse. Hence you need to consult your GP if you have some of these symptoms for the past 3 months.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Causes :
It is believed that you will have increased contractions of the muscles of the intestine that may send the food very quickly to the intestine. This action can cause flatulence and gas formation in the intestine. Normally the muscle of the intestine will relax and contract in organized manner for moving the food from the stomach into the intestine and till the rectum. By having irritable bowel syndrome, the muscle contraction will be more rapid than usual.
For some people the muscle contraction will be slower than usual pattern thus making the stool dry and hard resulting in constipation. In this case, the food passes into the intestine very slowly thus making it hard causing discomfort during every contraction. Experts believe that IBS can occur due to abnormality in serotonin levels. Since serotonin is very much needed for the routine functions of digestive system, individuals with IBS will have either very slow digestion or very fast depending on the level of serotonin secretion. It can also occur when there is imbalance in the amounts of good and bad bacteria.
Factors That Trigger IBS :
Individuals with IBS will respond strongly to some factors that are very normal for others. Certain type of foods, powerful medications and stressful events can affect your intestine.
Foods : Certain foods like milk, sweets, and alcohol can increase constipation for a person having IBS. You need to avoid carbonated beverages and even some kinds of vegetables and fruits that would cause bloating sensation and gas. Dairy products, plenty of coffee or tea and sugar free candies can also cause cramps in a person with IBS. Still research is going on whether food products will trigger the symptoms of IBS.
Stressful events, emotions and change in hormone level can trigger the symptoms.
Who Are At Risk?
People with a family history of IBS and individuals who are below 35 years are prone to get IBS. The first symptom will appear in early adulthood. Generally women are likely to have more of IBS symptoms than men.
Irritable bowel syndrome will not cause any risk to the intestine or rectum as such. But frequent diarrhea and constipation can cause hemorrhoids. Constant constipation or diarrhea problem can affect the quality of life and you may not be able to spend time with your family and friends sometime due to the fear of symptoms.
The doctor will check for the symptoms like abdominal pain lasting for several weeks and constipation or diarrhea. He will verify whether you have bloating sensation and mucus discharge in your stool. In case you have some of the above symptoms, then he will request for further testing procedures like colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy or CT scan. In addition blood test and stool test are to be done for detecting any bacterial infection. Normally CT test will give clear report of the condition of your intestine.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment :
- Home Remedies :
By making small changes in your diet you can reduce the symptoms of IBS. Include lot of fiber foods in your daily meal. For instance you can add fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet gradually for decreasing constipation. You can also consider taking fiber supplement like Metamucil for getting better results. But you have to start with small dose of this product and gradually increase it to higher dosage after weeks. Drink plenty of water to avoid bloating and gas formation.
You can avoid foods that make your symptoms worse. For people with gastric problem, you need to avoid cabbage, cauliflower, beans and broccoli. If dairy products are causing more symptoms you can carefully restrict the intake of milk products. Eat meals in proportion for several times a day so that your intestine will do less work. Practice exercise regularly. Avoid using diarrheal medicines daily which may cause side effects.
- Medical Treatment :
Treatment is based on your symptoms for irritable bowel syndrome. For people with diarrhea taking loperamide or its equivalent can help. Alosteron is prescribed for severe forms of diarrhea for slowing down the stool movements in the colon. For individuals with constipation, your doctor may prescribe Amitiza or LInaclotide which helps in easy bowel movements. Osmotic laxatives and stimulant laxatives are also highly effective for fast stool movement. Abdominal pain or cramps can be managed through antispasmodics like Bentyl or antidepressant medications like norpramin. Your doctor will have to monitor your health closely before giving these drugs.
- Other Treatments :
For reducing stress/anxiety and depression you can approach counselors who provide effective psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy to reduce the symptoms of IBS. Ayurvedic medicines, acupuncture and herbal medicines are effective for treating IBS.
Learn stress reduction techniques for reducing muscle tension from a psychologist. Progressive relaxation therapy is highly useful for relaxing the muscles one by one. Eat balanced healthy diet and practice yoga and meditation to prevent IBS.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Mayoclinic.org
- IBS – nhs.uk