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Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS is a severe functional gastrointestinal disorder. Its causes are not known, but there are risk factors that trigger this condition. The symptoms can be mild or severe, but they can go into remission with good treatment and diet.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is often a long-term disease that cannot be cured but can be managed. Its symptoms can be mild or severe. Even if it is chronic, it rarely causes complications or life-threatening conditions. The group of symptoms mainly points toward the movement problems in the bowels rather than the damage to the tissues of the bowels.
There is no known cause of IBS. But, there are some things that could irritate the bowel. Other names of the syndrome, as referred by doctors, can be; Mucous colitis, Spastic colon, Nervous colon, Irritable colon, and Spastic bowel.
What is IBS?
Functional gastrointestinal disorders include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It’s a combination of symptoms in the intestines that are often present together. The symptoms vary in severity, and duration differs from person to person.
What are the types of irritable bowel syndrome?
IBS symptoms and major causes of discomfort can vary. There are four types of them, but three of them are more common. They include:
This is irritable bowel syndrome, with diarrhea as the leading case.
Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation.
Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by a mix of constipation and diarrhea.
Subtyped is Irritable Bowel Syndrome because the victim does not have any concerns that fall within the categories. This is an extremely rare situation
After a whole number of studies and suggestive reasons by researchers on why the bowels could become irritated, bringing disturbing symptoms, specific causes have not still been arrived at. However, certain trigger factors have been identified that lead to this condition. They include:
- Abnormal motility or movement of the intestines.
- Chronic pains in the digestive organs and bowels due to excess gas.
- Weak intestinal muscle contractions
- Abnormalities in the nervous system; poor coordination of signals from the brain to the intestines can cause overreactive changes in the digestive process.
- Intestinal infections are caused by changes in gut microbes, which could be fungi, viruses, or bacteria, or after a severe case of gastroenteritis (stomach flu). Also, a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can lead to IBS.
- Hormonal changes like reproductive hormones can kick off IBS or make it worse.
- Stress; exposure to events that increase stress levels can aggravate cases of IBS.
- Psychological problems like depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can trigger IBS.
- Food poisoning can lead to gastroenteritis.
- The choice of food and diet can contribute to the trigger of IBS. Consumption of foods that can cause flatulence and flares. Such foods include; high-fiber products, dairy products, carbonated and caffeinated products, etc.
The symptoms of IBS include the following:
- Severe abdominal pains and cramps.
- Diarrhea; with violent bowel movements, sudden urgent need to defecate, accompanied by loose, watery stools, and a feeling that the bowels are still not empty after stopping.
- Alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation due to changes in bowel habits.
- Swollen/bloated abdomen
- Passing out flatulence due to the accumulation of excess gas.
- Foamy stools or accompanying mucous stools from the rectum.
- Need to urinate often
- Food intolerance
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Muscular and joint pains
- In women, irregular menstrual cycles and pain during sex.
- On rare occasions, bad breath.
- Anxiety and depression
Symptoms often worsen when the patient eats, gets stressed, and during her menstrual periods in women.
How is irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed?
It is advisable to consult the doctor when the patient has started noticing symptoms. The doctor will review the medical records to see possible factors that cause IBS.
Certain tests can be carried out, but they do not diagnose IBS directly; rather, they seek out signs that can be related to IBS. These tests include:
- Stool tests for microbe infections
- Blood tests for signs of infection and anemia.
- Tests for food allergies and diseases
- Tests for bowel muscular contractions.
- Colonoscopy for signs of inflammation in the bowels.
- Upper endoscopy for indigestion and heartburn. Urea breath test for bacterial overgrowth
- Investigational scans- include an x-ray scan of the abdomen, CT scan, etc.
- Lactose intolerance test
- Rome criteria
How is irritable bowel syndrome treated?
There is no one-off cure for IBS. However, there are ways to stop the symptoms and put them into remission. There are a lot of remedies, and the patient needs to work with the doctor to discover which one would work best for them.
Bulking agents that slow the food movement in the bowels and reduce the symptoms. They include wheat bran, corn fiber, psyllium, etc.
Drugs for Abdominal Pains, Cramps & Bloating
- Tricyclic antidepressants for muscular cramps.
- Antispasmodics for muscular spasms
- Probiotics for digestive problems
- Tenapanor for a bowel movement.
- Anticholinergic medications.
The Drugs for Constipation
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG)
- Bulk-forming laxatives
- Lubiprostone for women
- Tegaserod for women
Drugs for Diarrhea
- Antimotility medications
- Bile acid sequestrants
- Alosetron for women
To take these drugs, the patient has to consult the doctor for a prescription.
To overcome IBS, put it in remission, and avoid the risk of developing IBS, there are dietary lifestyles the patient has to adapt to and foods to avoid or reduce their intake. Follow these guidelines:
- Reduce the intake of dairy products like milk and cheese
- Manage fiber intake. Take them as instructed by the doctor. Depending on the condition, the patient may need to reduce or increase the intake.
- Eat-in small bits and avoid large chunks.
- Reduce the sugar intake and avoid sugar alternatives.
- Avoid gluten
- Cut down on caffeinated and carbonated products.
- Stop smoking.
- Limit the intake of alcohol.
- Drink a lot of water, at least 3 to 5 glasses daily.
- Do not miss a meal, and keep a record of your eating habit.
Stress & Anxiety
To overcome stress and be calm enough to reduce the effects of IBS, engage in exercises that relax you. Techniques like stress counseling, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, etc., can help the patient relieve stress and anxiety.
Psychological conditions can contribute to IBS; treating these conditions can reduce symptoms. Techniques like hypnotherapy alter how the subconscious mind reacts to physical symptoms and Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to develop a positive mindset and relaxing attitude towards the condition. With these techniques, the patient can reduce the symptoms of IBS.
- Although IBS does not lead to fatal cases, diarrhea and constipation can lead to hemorrhoids.
- Poor quality of life
- Mood disorders- Patients diagnosed with IBS have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, or bipolar disorder. Anxiety and depression can also worsen the condition of IBS.
- Impacted bowels
- Pregnancy complications
- Dehydration due to chronic diarrhea.
To prevent IBS from surfacing, the patient has to maintain a healthy eating habits and dietary plans. Avoid every strenuous activity that can cause stress and exercise regularly to ease out and relax. Once the risk factors are put off through these steps, IBS can be controlled.
IBS is a long-term disorder that can only be put into remission but cannot be cured entirely. However, if it occurs and is taken care of, IBS takes 3 to 6 months to go into remission and for the patient to return to normal life without the symptoms.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the most common functional digestive tract disorder in humans. Studies have stated that it affects 2 out of every 20 people and affects everyone, both young and old, females and males.
The word ‘functional’ means that the condition occurs when the system or organs change the way they function or work, rather than changing their form or structure.
The number of bacteria in the tract is a lot. While they are there to help in the functioning of the bowels, some cause inflammation or infections. Also, a change in the function of bacteria can lead to severe gastrointestinal irritation symptoms.
Foods and dietary plans can contribute to increased symptoms. For instance, dairy products can lead to diarrhea, carbonated products to the gaseous and bloated abdomen, smoking to inflammation, etc. To avoid this, consult the doctor and/or dietician to sort this out.
This can be caused due to dietary concerns like carbonated and high-fiber foods.
The risk factors for IBS are listed below:
1) IBS generally occurs more commonly in young adults <50yrs.
2) IBS occurs more common in females
4) Patients suffering from anxiety, depression, mood disorders, or other mental health issues.
Picture Courtesy: ecosh
No, irritable bowel syndrome is not contagious.
Since the exact cause of IBS is unknown, it cannot be prevented. However, change in lifestyle management and following a healthy diet and lifestyle can help in improve the quality of life and ease off the symptoms caused by IBS.
No, irritable bowel syndrome is not fatal. However, living with this condition can be challenging because it can lead to poor quality of life.