IBS: Things to Know
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a prevalent health condition that impacts the colon or large intestine. The walls of the large intestine consist of layers of muscles that work during digestion of food as they contract and relax in sequence to move the foods through the digestive tract. Often times, those with IBS may experience strong or weak muscle contractions, which in turn contributes to their uncomfortable symptoms. Additionally, other abnormalities of the GI tract and body’s signals can contribute to one’s disorder and its severity.
Signs and Symptoms
IBS can often cause minor, but noticeable symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping, mucus in the stool, constipation and various other GI discomfort. Similar symptoms can occur during times of high stress or even with slight changes in lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise. So, it is important to understand that everyone with such signs may NOT be diagnosed with IBS. However, one should pay close attention to sudden changes in bowel movements like rectal bleeding, noticeable weight loss and/or abdominal pain that worsens or occurs often at night. Such symptoms can reveal a more severe disorder like colon cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. In such cases, one should seek medical attention immediately.
IBS can often serve as a catch all diagnosis because the causes of such effects on the colon can vary person to person. Various stimuli have been noted to trigger discomfort such as:
- Food Intolerance and Allergies
- Additional Health Conditions
In fact, leading researchers believe that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with IBS due to regular hormonal changes that occur. Moreover, science has revealed that high stress situations and certain foods can trigger signs and symptoms of IBS in some individuals. Other notes made regarding the cause of IBS include other GI related illnesses such as bacterial overgrowth and gastroenteritis.
Due to the unknown nature of the disorder, patients diagnosed with IBS that may exhibit minor to mild symptoms may be asked by their doctor to better manage diet and stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Ways one may try to treat these symptoms include:
- Regular Exercise to maintain a healthy weight
- Meditations for stress management
- Avoid food triggers (Dairy, Alcohol, Some vegetables, Some fruit, Fatty foods, Chocolate, Spices and herbs, etc.)
- Drink plenty of water to regulate digestive tract
In more severe cases, one may be prescribed medications necessary to tame the identifiable symptoms such as anti-diarrheal medications, fiber supplements, antispasmodic medications, antibiotics, etc. In cases where stress may be a primary cause, one’s doctor may prescribe counseling to address stress management skills.
– CASEY EDMONDS, CHC