Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is not to be mistaken for inflammatory bowel disease. It is a common disorder of the intestines that leads to cramping pain, bloating, gassiness, and changes in bowel habits. People with IBS often deal with constipation, or a difficulty with having bowel movements. Other people suffer from diarrhea, or frequent loose stools with an urgency to use the restroom. Some people experience both issues. The cause of IBS is not known, and it has no cure. IBS is known as a functional disorder because there is no sign of disease when the colon is examined. Although IBS causes a great amount of discomfort and stress, it does not cause permanent harm or damage to the intestines. Nor does it cause intestinal bleeding or lead to a serous disease such as cancer.  

IBS is often thought to have been caused by emotional conflict or stress. Research has found that the colon muscle often begins to spasm after a mild stimulation in people with IBS. People with IBS also seem to have a colon that is more sensitive and reactional than normal. Eating and distention from gas or other materials can also cause overreaction in a person with IBS. Symptoms are usually reported right after a meal, and that is because eating causes the colon to contract. The strength of this response is related to the number of calories and amount of fat in each meal. It is believed that certain medications and foods may trigger spasms, which in turn delay the passage of stool or lead to constipation. Chocolate milk products or large amounts of alcohol are said to cause issues.

How Is IBS Diagnosed?

IBS is typically diagnosed after more serious diseases have been considered and excluded. The doctor will take a complete medical history that includes a detailed description of symptoms. A stool sample will be tested for evidence of bleeding, and a physical examination will be performed in addition to a laboratory test. In some cases, a doctor may perform a lower GI endoscopy or ask for an x-ray.

How Does A Good Diet Help IBS?

The best way to control symptoms of IBS is by eating a proper diet. It should be known that there is no standard way of treating IBS. Before changing your diet, it is a good idea to keep a journal that denotes which foods cause you a lot of stress so that you can discuss these findings with your doctor and avoid them in the future. Dietary fiber may also lessen IBS symptoms in some cases. Try adding whole-grain breads, beans and cereals to your diet. Make sure that you speak to your doctor before using any over-the-counter fiber supplements. High fiber diets keep the colon mildly distended, which may prevent spasms from occurring. It can also help keep water in stools which prevent hard stools that are difficult to pass. People with IBS should also avoid large meals which can cause cramping and diarrhea.

Can Medicines Help Relieve IBS Symptoms?

Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter fiber supplements or occasional laxatives if you are constipated. If you chronically suffer from diarrhea, then your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicine.  Your doctor may also suggest seeking other treatments or counseling to help reduce the effects that IBS can have on your lifestyle.