What is irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome – or IBS – is a relatively common disorder which affects the large intestine. Some of the symptoms and signs of irritable bowel syndrome may include cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea or constipation – or, alternatively, both. The majority of people can control their irritable bowel syndrome by managing their diet, making lifestyle changes, and managing their stress levels. However, in those with more severe symptoms, medication and counseling can be effective means of treating the condition.
When should I see a doctor for IBS?
While irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can typically be treated easily with diet and lifestyle changes, there are situations in which you should see your doctor about your IBS and its symptoms. You should see your doctor if you experience persistent changes in your bowel habits or other signs or symptoms of IBS as they can indicate a far more serious condition, which can include colon cancer.
If you experience any of the following serious symptoms of IBS, then you should see your doctor: weight loss; diarrhea at night; rectal bleeding; iron deficiency anemia; unexplained vomiting; difficulty swallowing; and persistent pain which is not relieved by passing gas or by a bowel movement. Your doctor will perform an exam and ask in-depth questions about your IBS before assessing and briefing you on what your treatment options may be.
What can trigger IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has several different triggers, which may vary from one person to another. It is important to know that what triggers your IBS may be different from someone else’s. That being said, there are common triggers that can cause IBS symptoms or a flare-up. These include:
- While food allergies rarely cause IBS flare-ups or symptoms, many people with IBS experience symptoms upon eating or drinking certain foods or drinks, which may include wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, and carbonated beverages;
- For many with IBS, they experience worse or more frequent symptoms when they are under increased stress, although stress is usually an aggravator of symptoms and not the cause of them;
- Women are twice as likely to have IBS compared to men, which may indicate that hormones play a role in IBS, as many women find that their symptoms are worse during or around the time of their menstrual cycle.
How can I avoid triggering my IBS symptoms?
There are several different recommendations that your doctor may make to help you manage and control your IBS symptoms. For instance, your doctor may recommend that you avoid any foods that you know will trigger your IBS symptoms – it is important that you keep track of what foods trigger your symptoms and make note of any new ones that do. Additionally, your doctor may recommend that you eat more high-fiber foods, drink plenty of fluids (especially water), that you exercise on a regular basis, and that you ensure that you are getting a good night’s rest.
There are other recommendations that your doctor may make, which will depend on the severity of your IBS symptoms. If you struggle with managing your diet, then your doctor may recommend that you see a dietician to help with managing your symptoms and with finding a diet that is right for you to help you manage your IBS and its symptoms.
If you suspect that you may have IBS or know that you do, then we at Vanguard Gastroenterology are here to help. Our experts can help you find an effective treatment plan that works for you. Please call to book your appointment with us.