Irritable Bowel Syndrome 

Uncovering Irritable Bowel Syndrome, its symptoms and causes. 

You are doing your daily activities, but suddenly, your start having an extremely bad stomach-ache. You feel an urgent need to find a restroom, and the pain is too much to bear. For many people, this scenario is a frequent reality which is due to a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine and causes various daily symptoms. 

In this blog, we will investigate what IBS is, types, causes and symptoms along with how IBS can be managed.  

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder affecting the stomach and intestines, also called the gastrointestinal tract. IBS causes uncomfortable and painful abdominal symptoms.  

IBS is a chronic condition that needs to be managed for the long term. Some people with IBS can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress. More severe symptoms can be treated with medications and counselling. IBS does not damage the digestive tract or raise the risk of colon cancer. 

IBS can affect individuals of all ages, but it is mostly diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20 and 50 years old. It is more commonly diagnosed in women than in men, with a ratio of approximately 2:1. According to International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders the prevalence of IBS varies across different countries and populations, with estimates ranging from 5%-10% globally. 

How do you know you have IBS? The symptoms of IBS are:

  • Abdominal Pain and cramping: It is related to having a bowel movement and is the most common symptom.

  • Excess bloating and gas: People with IBS experience a feeling of fullness and increased gas production. 

  • Constipation: People with IBS can experience difficulty in passing stool, with infrequent and hard bowel movements. 

  • Diarrhoea: People with IBS can experience frequent, watery and loose stools. 

  • Mucus in the stool: There can be the presence of white or clear mucus in the stool, and it’s also a symptom of IBS. 

  • Changes in the bowel movements frequency and a feeling of dissatisfaction after the bowel movement. 

What are the Causes of IBS:

The exact cause of IBS is yet to be determined, but several factors might play a role:  

  • Muscle Contraction in the Intestine: Walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscles that contract as they move food through the digestive tract. Stronger contractions that last longer than usual cause diarrhoea, gas and bloating. On the other hand, weak contractions can slow food passages and lead to hard, dry stools.

  • Gut-Brain Interaction: Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines can cause the body to overreact to changes that typically occur in the digestive process.  

  • Severe Infections: IBS can also develop after severe diarrhoea caused by bacteria or a virus. This is called gastroenteritis. IBS might also be caused by a surplus of bacteria in the intestines (bacterial overgrowth).

  • Changes in Gut Microbes: Research indicates that the microbes in people with IBS might differ from those in people who don’t have IBS. Examples include changes in bacteria, fungi and viruses, which typically reside in the intestines and play a key role in health.

  • Food intolerance: Sensitivities or allergies to certain foods may contribute to IBS.

  • Childhood stress: IBS is more common in people who experienced severe stressors in childhood.

Types Of IBS:

IBS is categorized based on how stools look when symptoms flare up. Most people with IBS have normal bowel movements on some days and abnormal ones on others. The abnormal days define the kind of IBS the person may have. 

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C): Most of the stool is hard and lumpy. 
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D): Most stool is loose and watery. 
  • IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M): A person might have both hard and lumpy bowel movements and loose and watery movements. 

The differences are important. Certain treatments only work for specific types of IBS. 

Managing IBS:

While currently, there is no cure for IBS, various techniques can be implemented to manage IBS and ease the symptoms.  

Meal changes: Identifying and avoiding trigger foods and following a low FODMAP diet. Increasing fibre intake (for IBS-C) can be beneficial. 

Stress Management: Various techniques, such as mindfulness and relaxation exercises, can help manage the emotional aspects of IBS. 

Regular Exercise: Physical activity can improve gut motility and reduce stress. 

Hydration: Drinking fluids, especially water, is crucial, mainly for those with IBS-C. 

Medications: The healthcare professional prescribes medications depending on the type of IBS.  

IBS is a common yet complex condition, and living with IBS can be challenging. But understanding the condition and how to manage it can help lead a more comfortable and fulfilling life. Understanding the nature of IBS, recognizing the symptoms and knowing the causes can help individuals seek appropriate treatments and make necessary lifestyle adjustments.  

If you suspect you have IBS, book an appointment now on Cellmaflex and seek advice from a healthcare professional to tailor a treatment plan to your specific needs. 

FAQs 

What is the FODMAP diet?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, an acronym for a particular class of carbohydrates called fermentable short-chain carbohydrates, which are more difficult for people to digest. The low-FODMAP diet temporarily restricts these carbohydrates to relieve uncomfortable symptoms and give your digestive system a rest.  

What triggers IBS?

If you have IBS, you might notice that certain things trigger symptoms. A trigger doesn’t cause the condition itself, but it can flare-up a symptom. Common triggers include: 

  • Certain foods: Food triggers vary from person to person.  
  • Stress: Some researchers suggest that IBS is your gut’s response to stress. Related, this is why IBS is sometimes called “nervous stomach” or “anxious stomach.” 
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