Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is IBS?-

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system.
  • It causes symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. These tend to come and go over time, and can last for days, weeks or months at a time.
  • It’s usually a lifelong problem. It can be very frustrating to live with and can have a big impact on your everyday life.
  • There’s no cure, but diet changes and medicines can often help control the symptoms.
  • The exact cause is unknown – it’s been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress and a family history of IBS.

Other symptoms of IBS

IBS can also cause:

  • farting (flatulence)
  • passing mucus from your bottom
  • tiredness and a lack of energy
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • backache
  • problems peeing, like needing to pee often, sudden urges to pee, and feeling like you cannot fully empty your bladder
  • not always being able to control when you poo (bowel incontinence)

IBS pain

IBS pain may feel like cramping. With this cramping, you will also have at least two of the following experiences:

  • some relief of pain after a bowel movement
  • a change in how often you have a bowel movement
  • changes in the way your stools look

IBS diagnosis

Your doctor may be able to diagnose IBS based on your symptoms. They may also take one or more of the following steps to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms:

  • have you adopt a certain diet or cut out specific food groups for a time to rule out any food allergies
  • have a stool sample examined to rule out infection
  • have blood tests done to check for anemia and rule out celiac disease
  • perform a colonoscopy

Your doctor will typically only order a colonoscopy if they suspect that your symptoms are being caused by colitis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease), or cancer.

Treating IBS

There is currently no cure for IBS. Treatment is aimed at symptom relief.

Initially, your doctor may have you make certain lifestyle changes. These home remedies are typically suggested before the use of medication.

Home remedies for IBS

Certain home remedies or lifestyle changes may help to relieve your IBS symptoms without the use of medication. Examples of these lifestyle changes include:

  • participating in regular physical exercise
  • cutting back on caffeinated beverages, since caffeine stimulates the intestines
  • eating smaller meals
  • minimizing stress (talk therapy may help)
  • taking probiotics (“good” bacteria normally found in the intestines) to help relieve gas and bloating
  • avoiding deep-fried or spicy foods

Diet, lifestyle and medicines-Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

There’s no single diet or medicine that works for everyone with IBS. But there are lots of things that can help if you have been diagnosed with it.

General tips to relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms

Do

  • cook homemade meals using fresh ingredients when you can
  • keep a diary of what you eat and any symptoms you get – try to avoid things that trigger your IBS
  • try to find ways to relax
  • get plenty of exercise
  • try probiotics for a month to see if they help

Don’t

  • do not delay or skip meals
  • do not eat too quickly
  • do not eat lots of fatty, spicy or processed foods
  • do not eat more than 3 portions of fresh fruit a day (a portion is 80g)
  • do not drink more than 3 cups of tea or coffee a day
  • do not drink lots of alcohol or fizzy drinks

Medications

The following medications may help IBS symptoms:

  • Antispasmodic medications: These reduce abdominal cramping and pain by relaxing the muscles in the gut.
  • Bulk-forming laxatives: These can help a person relieve constipation. However, people should take them with caution.
  • Antimotility medications: These can reduce diarrhea symptoms. Options include loperamide, which slows down contractions of the intestinal muscles.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): These often help to reduce abdominal pain and cramping.

Additional medications specific to IBS treatment include:

  • alosetron (Lotronex) for severe diarrhea-predominant IBS in females
  • lubiprostone (Amitiza) for constipation-predominant IBS in females
  • rifaximin (Xifaxan), an antibiotic that can help reduce diarrhea in people with IBS
  • eluxadoline (Viberzi) for diarrhea and abdominal pain in people who have IBS with diarrhea

These are typically the last line of treatment when other lifestyle or therapeutic interventions have not helped, and symptoms remain severe.

Summary

IBS is a gastrointestinal syndrome that does not cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract. However, it can cause uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms.

Though it is common, it can be difficult for a doctor to diagnose IBS due to the lack of tests available to diagnose it and the symptoms it shares with many other conditions.

There is no cure for IBS. However, treatments are available that can help a person manage their symptoms and regain a better quality of life.

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