The Leading Symptoms and Treatments of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder causing pain or discomfort accompanying bowel movements. It is considered a group of symptoms rather than a disease, as it does not cause any measurable damage to the organs. IBS affects about 10 to 15 percent of the population in developed countries. Women are two to three times more likely to suffer from IBS than men. While the cause is still unknown, it can have a variety of symptoms. There is no known cure, but certain treatments and lifestyle changes can help to manage symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Some of the symptoms that sufferers of IBS may experience include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Tenesmus, or feeling of incomplete evacuation.
- Abdominal distension.
IBS is split into two main categories. In constipation-predominant IBS or IBS-C, there is constipation accompanying other symptoms such as pain and abdominal discomfort. In the type classification known as diarrhea-predominant IBS or IBS-D, diarrhea accompanies these symptoms.
How Widespread is the Problem?
Some research indicates that as many as one in five Americans has IBS. Statistics are difficult to compile for a few reasons. First of all, the majority of people with symptoms never seek medical help. This may be due to embarrassment or a belief that they will not get relief.
Another problem is that IBS symptoms often overlap with other conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, which includes both Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. Both of these conditions are considered more serious than IBS. Colon cancer may also produce similar symptoms. This is why it’s important for people who suspect they may have IBS to seek medical attention. This allows doctors to rule out other diseases which may require urgent attention.
Causes and Triggers of IBS
While the cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known, certain foods, behaviors and circumstances may trigger it once people have the condition. This may vary from one individual to the next. Triggers may include:
- Foods -Especially sweets, gluten, certain spices, fats, alcohol and dairy products.
- Stress -Many people find that IBS symptoms are triggered or made worse by stressful events.
- Hormones -Some women find that symptoms worsen during menstrual periods.
- Travel -Especially long trips, whether by car, plane or train.
While a cure for IBS has not been found, there are certain ways that people can manage symptoms.
- Diet -Some people find that a gluten-free diet helps. Other diets that are recommended include Paleo, vegan and low carb diets.
- Medications -While drugs can’t cure IBS, they can control symptoms. Anti-diarrheal drugs can control diarrhea and others can control symptoms such as bloating.
- Natural Supplements -A fiber supplement such as psyllium or milk of magnesia can help to control constipation. Peppermint oil may also help, but this must be used with caution.
- Lifestyle -Managing stress, getting more sleep and regular exercise may help to manage IBS symptoms.
Outlook for IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome is currently being extensively researched. There are certain promising theories that may identify its causes. Some researchers believe that it is caused by bacteria while others blame fungus. Certain experimental medications, such as Alosetron and Lubiprostone are being administered to people with some promising results. Until more is known about the disorder, sufferers will have to do everything they can to avoid triggers so that the symptoms are kept to a minimum.