Do You Suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common chronic condition of the digestive system.  Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the general population experiences symptoms of IBS.

IBS Symptoms

IBS usually begins in young adulthood. Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with IBS. The primary symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. Abdominal pain can vary in location and severity. Patients can experience primarily diarrhea, primarily constipation, or an alternating pattern of the two.

IBS Causes

IBS is associated with abnormal and vigorous contractions of the intestines. A severe gastrointestinal infection can trigger IBS.  Stress and anxiety are known to exacerbate the symptoms of IBS. IBS may be more common in people who have a history of physical, verbal, or sexual abuse.

Patients with IBS can be intolerant to certain foods like dairy products (foods containing lactose), legumes, such as beans, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Although IBS can produce discomfort and emotional distress, there is no structural problem in the bowel and patients do not develop long-term health problems from it.

IBS Diagnosis

Several intestinal disorders have symptoms that are similar to IBS. An important step in diagnosing and treating IBS is to monitor your symptoms, diet, and bowel habits by keeping a daily diary.

Because there is no test for IBS, a medical history, physical examination, and select tests may be needed in some patients to rule out other medical conditions.

IBS Treatments

IBS symptoms can be controlled to ensure a healthy, normal life. Several treatments and therapies are available for IBS. It may be necessary to try more than one treatment to find the one that is most helpful for you. Treatment is usually a long-term process; during this process, it is important to communicate with your healthcare provider about symptoms, concerns, and any stressors or home/work/family problems that develop.

Additional treatments for IBS can include modifying your diet by increasing your dietary fiber or trying a lactose-free diet to see if you are intolerant to dairy.  Probiotic supplements may also help some patients with IBS.

There are medications available to help symptoms of IBS in patients who do not respond to dietary modifications alone.