IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a chronic condition that affects your gastrointestinal tract. Unlike Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome is not a form of inflammatory bowel disease. IBS is a functional disorder that causes the patient to require long-term management for very uncomfortable symptoms.
Causes of IBS
The precise causes of IBS are unknown. The gut and all that it entails is a complex system within the human body. Your gut is responsible for a large portion of your immune system and the production of serotonin. Additionally, the microbiome found in the intestine is a balance of bacteria that can influence the health of the entire body.
Doctors believe that the muscles and nerves within the bowels of an IBS patient are overly sensitive. They will contract and relax at an abnormal rate which results in cramping and pain. When the muscles force food to pass through the intestines too quickly it results in gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. It is thought that the contractions could be in reaction to certain foods, environmental factors or other stimulants.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms
The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome vary, can be difficult to pinpoint, and often appear without a trigger. The following symptoms are common and patients can experience a mild to a serious case of each.
- Abdominal distention or bloating
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Alternating episodes of diarrhea or constipation
- Mucus in the stool
- Muscle aches
Risk Factors of IBS
Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Since the causes of IBS are unknown it can be difficult to diagnose. In a recent national survey most respondents who identify as having IBS were not diagnosed or treated by a doctor. Patients report that they just “live with it” and self-medicate with over the counter solutions. Self-diagnosis and treatment is not encouraged and your Concorde Gastroenterology physician can help you identify your triggers, give you lifestyle changes that have been proven effective, and offer you medicines that can be life-changing.
Once you come into one of our offices our staff will take a complete medical history and perform a physical exam. We can diagnose inflammatory bowel disease using one or more of the following tests:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment
After you are diagnosed with IBS, it can usually be treated with simple lifestyle changes. Treatment usually focuses on relieving symptoms. This includes managing stress and making dietary changes for mild symptoms. We normally advise patients to cut back on fatty foods, dairy products, chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine. Additional lifestyle changes include regular exercise, meditation, counseling, and deep breathing. These changes can help reduce stress as well as symptom flare-ups.
While lifestyle changes may help to curb mild symptoms, discomfort can still trouble patients. In this case, several medications are helpful in dealing with IBS symptoms. These can include antidiarrheals, antibiotics, antidepressants, antispasmodics, fiber supplements, and laxatives.