Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that is marked by changes in frequency and/or form of bowel movements like constipation and diarrhea. In most cases, both the symptoms are visible from time to time in an individual. In this ailment, the individual experiences a group of symptoms altogether which includes recurring abdominal pain with spasms and bloating. IBS sensitizes the digestive tract and disrupts the gut and brain interaction.
Doctors also refer to irritable bowel syndrome as IBS colitis, Spastic colon, Spastic bowel, nervous colon, and Mucous colitis. Around 15%-20% of men and women in the United States of America are diagnosed with Irritable bowel syndrome every year. According to studies, IBS affects women more than it affects men. Even though the long-lasting symptoms can lead to major disruptions in an individual’s life, it is not life-threatening. In some cases, the symptoms might not be so active but it continues to be a life-long condition. The symptoms can flare up from time to time causing extreme discomfort.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE BEHIND IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME?
There is a lack of substantial evidence to pinpoint what exactly causes IBS. There can be several reasons behind it getting triggered in an individual.
- Some studies reflect that Irritable bowel syndrome takes place when the muscles in the large intestine fail to contract properly, disrupting the movement of the stools.
- Some other theories accredit it to the hormones involved, namely, serotonin and gastrin. These hormones control the nerve impulses or signals between the digestive tract and the brain.
- According to another theory, the bacteria present inside the gut is to be blamed for triggering Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS.
- Recent studies depict that infections in the gastrointestinal tract like food poisoning can alter how the immune system works in an individual. IBS might be a result of this.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
As mentioned before, IBS is manifested through a wide range of signs and symptoms. In most people, the symptoms are severe while in some lucky ones they are relatively milder. One or more symptoms can show up unpredictably and the consequences are disabling. The most common irritable bowel syndrome(IBS) symptoms are:
- Unbearable abdominal pain
- Changes in bowel movement
Some of the symptoms are unique to the type of irritable bowel syndrome affecting an individual. Those types are:
- Irritable bowel syndrome with only diarrhea i.e IBS-D
- Irritable bowel syndrome with only constipation i.e IBS-C
- Irritable bowel syndrome with alternative bouts of diarrhea and constipation i.e Mixed IBS or IBS-M
- IBS that does not belong to the aforementioned types
TREATMENTS FOR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
While IBS can be managed, no single irritable bowel syndrome(IBS) treatment is enough to help alleviate all the symptoms. Moreover, the triggers of IBS vary from person to person. Certain foods which set off IBS in one person may have no adverse effect on another suffering from the same condition. Over time, the condition becomes manageable when the individual makes certain changes in his eating habits and lifestyle. Some of the proposed changes that might be beneficial in the treatment of IBS are:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Adding fibrous foods to the diet like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts
- Incorporate regular exercise into everyday life
- Limit consumption of dairy products like cheese, butter, etc
- Quit smoking
- Reduce caffeine intake in the form of tea and coffee
- Aim at eating six small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones
- Aim at keeping stress levels low
Some foods that should be avoided may include:
- Green onions
- Red peppers
- Cow’s milk
- Red wine
Some medications may be prescribed by the doctors for use in case of emergency. They are meant to provide short-term relief to one or multiple symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome. They cannot cure IBS permanently.
IBS does not damage the gastrointestinal tract enough to lead to cancer but Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS) affects more than just the gut. The symptoms get worse when flared up and it disables the person from doing anything else. Most people shy away from discussing it openly or take a doctor’s consultation because they tend to normalize the sudden bouts of tremendous abdominal pain or the need to use the toilet more than ten times a day. Why? Because they find it embarrassing to talk about a bowel disorder openly.
The symptoms of IBS do get in the way of a person’s private, social and professional lives. They are more likely to call in sick to work and to cancel plans with friends and family last minute. Consequently, it takes a toll on the person’s mental health as well. Therefore the person suffering from it might choose to not speak about it but a supportive and understanding circle of friends, family, and colleagues might just help in reducing the anxiety that comes with IBS.