Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

22-12-2017   |   Posted By: Anirudh Singh   |   2134 View(s)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic health condition which causes abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhoea, bloating and constipation. It is a common disorder which affects the large intestine and can change how you live.IBS includes both stomach discomfort and trouble in bowel habits, i.e. either going less or more than normal(constipation or diarrhoea) or having a stool which is of a different kind(thin, hard or soft).

IBS is a long-lasting health problem, and thus people who have IBS often have to change their lifestyle. Some people may miss school or work, and some might not be able to take part in the day to day activities due to this health problem.

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The signs and symptoms of IBS are very uncomfortable; however, IBS is nothing like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, both of which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Unlike these diseases, IBS does not cause any changes in bowel tissues or increase the risk of colorectal cancer.Only a few people with IBS have severe signs and symptoms. Some people tend to control their symptoms by making changes in their diet while others treat IBS with the help of medication and counselling.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The signs and symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person. People with IBS can have the following symptoms:
• Diarrhea
• Diarrhoea alternating with Constipation
• Pain in abdomen
• Belly cramps usually after taking meals or a bowel movement
• Gas and bloating
• Mucus in the stool
• Looser or Harder stools than normal

Some people also might have urinary symptoms or sexual problems. IBS is a chronic condition. However, there might be times when these symptoms get worse and times when they might improve or disappear completely.

IBS is of 4 types:

1. IBS-C which is IBS with Constipation
2. IBS-D. It is IBS with Diarrhea.
3. IBS-M. This is Mixed IBS in which people have an alternating pattern of Diarrhea and Constipation.
4. IBS-U. This is called as un-subtyped IBS which rarely happens to people.

Suffering from IBS- Consult a Doctor 

Many people have signs and symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. But, only some people seek medical help. If you see a persistent change in bowel habits or have any signs and symptoms of IBS, you must consult a Doctor immediately as these symptoms may indicate a serious health condition, such as colon cancer.

Symptoms that may indicate a serious Health Concern are as follows:
• Rectal bleeding
• Abdominal pain which increases at night.
• Weight Loss

These above symptoms might be an indication of a serious health condition, and thus your Doctor would tell you ways to relieve symptoms and rule out colon conditions, such as colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. Also, the Doctor can help in avoiding possible complications that might arise from problems such as chronic diarrhoea.

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Several things trigger IBS symptoms. However, one cannot tell the exact cause of IBS. The walls of our intestines are lined with thin layers of muscle that contract and relax in a slow and rhythmic manner as they move food from the stomach through the intestinal tract to our rectum. When a person has IBS, the contractions are stronger and last longer than usual, which causes gas, bloating and diarrhoea. On the other hand, when the contractions are weak, it leads to hard, dry stools.
Some theories suggest that IBS can be triggered by abnormalities in our nervous system. There are certain chemicals in our body, such as serotonin and gastrin, both of which control nerve signals between the brain and digestive tract. When there is a poor coordination of signals between the brain and intestines, it makes your body overreact to the changes that occur in the digestive process normally. This overreaction may cause pain, Diarrhoea or Constipation.
IBS generally happens in women which is why some believe that hormones may play a significant role in causing this health condition. However, studies have not confirmed this theory yet.
Triggers might vary from person to person. Stimuli that does not bother other people can trigger symptoms in people with IBS, however not all people with the condition will react to the same stimuli.

Some of the Common triggers include:

1. Foods
Many people are allergic to certain kind of foods. This theory is not clearly understood, but it is seen that many people have symptoms of IBS when they eat certain things. Some of the common foods that trigger IBS are- chocolate, spices, fats, beans, cabbage, broccoli, milk, fruits, alcohol, carbonated beverages, etc.

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2. Stress
The signs and symptoms of IBS get worse when people are stressed. People with IBS find that their signs and symptoms are more frequent during periods of increased stress, such as during exam time, the first day of the job or first job interview. Though stress aggravates symptoms of IBS in some people, it does not cause them.

3. Hormones
According to a survey, women are twice as likely to have IBS which is why researchers believe that hormones play a major role in this health condition. Studies have shown that signs and symptoms of IBS get worse in women during their menstrual periods.

4. Other illnesses
There are other illnesses such as gastroenteritis or bacterial overgrowth which can trigger IBS.

Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

As of now, there are no specific lab tests which can diagnose IBS. But, your Doctor will ask you to undergo some tests to rule out conditions such as:

1. Food Allergies and Poor Dietary Habits
2. Medications, such as antacids, drugs for high Blood Pressure, etc
3. Infection
4. Enzyme deficiencies
5. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis
To confirm that you have IBS, your Doctor may ask you to undergo some of the following tests:
1. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy or Colonoscopy. This test is done so that your Doctor can look for the signs of inflammation or blockage in your intestines.
2. If you have heartburn or indigestion problems, your Doctor would ask you to go for Upper Endoscopy test.
3. X-Rays
4. Blood tests to detect signs of infections or look for conditions such as anaemia and thyroid problems.
5. Stool tests
6. Tests for gluten allergy, lactose intolerance or celiac disease.

Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS can be treated by medications and some lifestyle changes. Those who have IBS must not eat those foods which trigger their IBS. They should stay hydrated, avoid caffeine, add more fibre to the diet, exercise, quit smoking and eat in smaller portions.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic health condition which can drastically change your lifestyle. If you have any signs and symptoms of IBS as mentioned above in the blog, you must consult your doctor immediately and start your treatment. Moreover, you must also go for a Regular Health Check-up to keep diseases and illnesses at bay.

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