Irritable Bowel Syndrome Facts and Awareness
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common disorder affecting the large intestine. It is also known as a spastic colon. Unfortunately, this condition cannot be cured, only treated. It can be chronic, lasting for years or even a lifetime. Causes for IBS are not well understood, but there are many signs and symptoms that if present can help a person to know if they have IBS. It is thought to be a result of abnormal gastrointestinal tract movements and disruption of the brain and GI tract.
Signs of IBS
The first signs of IBS are pain and cramping; abdominal pain is the most common symptom and the main determining factor in diagnosing IBS. Diarrhea and constipation are also symptoms of IBS, as well as changes in bowel movements. A person may also suffer from extreme gas, bloating, food intolerance, and fatigue. These symptoms can be worse during periods of stress or even during menstruation in women.
Who Does IBS Effect?
In Australia, an estimated one in five people suffer from IBS symptoms and it is also more common among women than men. There are several factors that can predispose a person to get IBS, such as genetics, infections, and trauma. Symptoms of IBS arise from disturbances in muscle contractions and also increased sensitivity to certain things like foods. This happens due to disruptions in the communication between a person’s brain and their gut, known as the brain-gut axis. This is important in maintaining healthy and normal bowel functions. When a person suffers from IBS, this interaction is disturbed and changes mobility in the bowel.
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Those who suffer from diarrhea are known to have IBS-D, which comes with onset urges to have bowel movements with very loose stools and abdominal pain. A person may also feel like they are unable to completely empty their bowels or even lose control of their bowels. Those who suffer from constipation are said to have IBS-C, and suffers from hard stools and having to strain during bowel movements. Often, someone will alternate between having diarrhea or being constipated, which is very common.
IBS can often be hard to diagnose. Doctors normally perform tests to rule out any other problems until they truly conclude that a person is actually suffering from IBS. These tests can include CT scans, X-rays, endoscopy/colonoscopy, and even blood tests.
The good news is that there are many treatments for IBS; these treatments will not cure it, but it can soothe many discomforting problems arising from it. Adding fiber to your diet can help greatly, as it expands the inside of the digestive tract, and also promotes better bowel movements. Reducing stress and anxiety can also help, as stress causes flare-ups. Eating regular and balanced meals, reducing caffeine intake, increasing exercise, drinking plenty of water, avoiding carbonated drinks like soda and even eating smaller meals can help lessen pain and cramping.
Aside from home remedies and little changes that can be made, there are medications that can treat IBS symptoms. Antispasmodic medications are used to treat symptoms of IBS, which include dicyclomine and hyoscyamine. These medications help to slow movements of the digestive tract and decrease the risk of spasms. Antidiarrheal medications have also been used to treat IBS when diarrhea is the main problem. However, these should not be taken on a long-term basis and a doctor should be consulted before starting any of these medications. Antidepressants can also be effective in alleviating certain symptoms of IBS. Research has shown that the best treatment(s) for IBS are certain medications. These medications should be properly prescribed by a doctor.
Living with IBS
It is possible to live a normal life with IBS. Taking small steps to alleviate pain or discomfort can be a tremendous help. Unfortunately, IBS can really affect a person and their day to day functioning. A person may feel constant discomfort, or the need to run to the bathroom several times a day. Thankfully, there are medications that can help ease these symptoms and help a person live a normal life with IBS, along with the small changes that can be made in diet, exercise, and even stress level. Thankfully, there is a lot of research on this condition and proven medications that can lessen discomfort and help a person who is suffering from this illness.