Know the basics
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disease that can affects how the large intestine works. Normally, food moves through the digestive tract from the small intestine to the colon. The colon will absorb any water in the food and contract to push stool through.
In people with IBS, these muscle contractions may be abnormal. Sometimes there might be too many contractions leading to diarrhea. Sometimes, these contractions are slowed down causing constipation. Even when there is no stool, the muscle still contract irregularly, causing pain for the patient.
How common is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
IBS is common. It affects 10 – 15 people in each 100. IBS commonly attack women more than men, with about twice as many women as men. Young people under 45 usually have IBS, starting at adolescence with no considerable symptoms but may get worse at older age.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
The symptoms are found in the bowel. In mild cases, it might seem like regular diarrhea and then get more frequent and painful. These symptoms come and go over a long period. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain or cramping that improve after bowels movement;
- Change in how often these movements are;
- Change in waste product (stool);
- An urgent need to move the bowels and feeling of incomplete evacuation.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Although people have irritable bowel syndrome, IBS can be controlled by medication. It’s important to see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits, especially when most bowel conditions have the same symptoms.
Your doctor may be able to help you find ways to relieve symptoms as well as rule out colon conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. Your doctor can also help you avoid possible complications that might result from IBS.
Know the causes
What causes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
The cause is unknown but IBS appears to be related to the nervous system. People with IBS have a colon that reacts very strongly to signals from the brain. Many people find IBS can be triggered by some of the following:
- Eating (though no particular foods have been linked with IBS);
- Stress and psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression;
- Hormonal changes, such as during the menstrual cycle;
- Some medicines, such as antibiotics;
- An infection in the digestive tract, such as salmonella.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
There are many risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome, such as:
- Age: most often found in people younger than 45 years.
- Sex: about twice as many women as men have IBC.
- Family history.
- Having stress or hormonal problems.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diagnosed?
Not everyone who has gastrointestinal symptoms has IBS. The doctor diagnoses IBS by taking a careful medical history to detail the symptoms. No test can prove that someone has IBS. The doctor may use blood tests, x-rays, and looking at the colon through a thin, flexible tube (special instrument called an endoscope) to rule out other disorders.
How is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) treated?
Although the best way to treat IBS is by avoiding triggers, there are a few medications that can control the symptoms. You will be given medication to:
- Supplement fiber in your daily diet if you are not getting enough.
- Medications to prevent diarrhea;
- Medicines to prevent contraction of the colon muscle;
- Antidepressants to control brain signals to the colon muscle;
- Probiotics to help with digestion.
Over-the-counter laxatives should be taken only under a doctor’s direction, because overuse of laxatives may be harmful. Tranquilizers and antidepressants may also help people with IBS.
Two common mediations for IBS are Alosetron (Lotronex) and Lubiprostone (Amitiza). However, these medications are not recommended for men.
- Alosetron (Lotronex): This medication can only be described by the doctor. It is used to relaxed the colon muscle.
- Lubiprostone (Amitiza): Lubiprostone stimulate your small intestine to create more fluids. This will help the stool moves out of your body easier.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Lifestyle changes may help relieve IBS symptoms. These changes include eating a high-fiber diet, avoiding foods that make symptoms worse, eating regular meals that are not too big, drinking enough water, getting regular exercise, and reducing stress.
- Learn what foods worsen your symptoms and avoid them.
- Eat a good diet with high-fiber foods, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Fiber supplements may help if your diet does not have enough fiber.
- Eat regular, balanced meals.
- Drink plenty of water to help the colon work correctly.
- Take medicines as instructed by your doctor.
- Try to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.
- Try to lower stress. Don’t take on more work or obligations than you can handle.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
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Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017