Do you ever experience abdominal pain or cramps that just won't go away? Is it severely disrupting your daily activities? You could very well be suffering from a form of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common digestive disorder affecting about 10-15% of the world's adult population. It can cause an array of symptoms ranging from feel-good days and moments to those full of abdominal pain, nausea, cramping, and fatigue.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by recurrent abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and alteration of bowel habits . Although it can cause significant discomfort and emotional stress, but it does not lead to serious diseases, such as cancer.
The exact cause of IBS is not known. However, certain factors are believed to play a significant role in its development. These include abnormal movements of the colon and small intestines, increased sensitivity to pain from gas or full bowels, and an imbalance in gut bacteria. Other contributing factors may include infections, inflammation in the intestines, and changes in nerves that control bowel function. Furthermore, stress, diet, and hormones can exacerbate IBS symptoms.
How to Know If you have IBS?
Diarrhea is one of the most commonly reported symptoms associated with IBS. It is characterized by frequent, loose, and watery stools that can occur multiple times a day. Diarrhea can be mild or severe and may come and go in episodes. Imbalances in the gut microbiome are believed to play an important role in causing diarrhea related to IBS .
Pain and Cramps
Abdominal pain and cramps are common symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This discomfort usually stems from the intestines' altered functionality. The muscles in your intestines contract and relax to move food from your stomach through your intestinal tract to your rectum. If you have IBS, the contractions may be stronger and last longer, causing bloating, gas, and intense discomfort or pain.
Cramping can also occur, frequently localized in specific areas, and it may be accompanied by bowel movements. The exact cause of these symptoms varies among individuals, with some people experiencing them after meals, while others may feel them at any time, there is no one answer that fits all.
IBS-related constipation is often characterized by infrequent bowel movements, hard or lumpy stools, and a sensation of incomplete evacuation . This happens due to the slower passage of food through the digestive tract in those with IBS, allowing more time for water to be reabsorbed from the stool, which then results in constipation. It's important to note that while constipation can indeed be a sign of IBS, it does not confirm the diagnosis on its own.
Bloating is a common symptom associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Those suffering from IBS may find that their belly feels swollen or full, often accompanied by excessive gas and discomfort. This bloating may be caused by altered gut motility, which is a typical characteristic of IBS. This condition can cause the food to pass through the intestine either too quickly or too slowly, leading to bloating and other symptoms.
Moreover, some individuals with IBS may have sensitivity towards certain types of food, which might contribute to bloating. However, it's important to note that while bloating can be a symptom of IBS, experiencing bloating does not automatically mean you have IBS.
Intolerance to Foods
Intolerance to certain foods can often be a symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This happens because individuals with IBS have a hypersensitive gut, which reacts strongly to certain types of food, causing common IBS symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Food intolerance differs from allergies, as it does not involve the immune system.
- Below is a list of foods that many people with IBS have found to exacerbate their symptoms:
- High-fat foods, including fatty meats and dairy products.
- Dairy products, specifically for individuals who are lactose intolerant.
- Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye.
- Certain vegetables that increase gas, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
- Some fruits like apples and pears, contain the sugar alcohol, sorbitol.
- Drinks with caffeine, like coffee, tea, and some sodas.
- Alcoholic beverages.
When to See a Doctor?
If you suspect you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it's essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible. You should reach out to a healthcare professional if you experience common symptoms of IBS, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation, particularly if these symptoms persist for several weeks or impact your daily life.
Furthermore, you should immediately contact a doctor if you notice more alarming signs such as unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing, persistent vomiting or nausea, or blood in your stool. These could potentially indicate a more serious condition.
Are there any Treatments for IBS?
Lifestyle modifications are often the first line of treatment for IBS. This can involve exercise  , dietary adjustments, such as eliminating high-gas foods, gluten, or FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols). In addition, studies have suggested that exclusion diets are extremely successful in providing relief to IBS symptoms .
Several types of medications may be used to treat IBS, depending on the specific symptoms. Antispasmodic medications can help manage abdominal pain, while laxatives and fiber supplements can help with constipation. Anti-diarrheal medication can be beneficial for those with IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant IBS.) Furthermore, studies have developed the role of probiotics in managing IBS and other dietary conditions. Rucir’s Ultra Probiotic ND 50 can be helpful in fulfilling your body’s needs.
For some people with IBS, stress, and anxiety can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, and other psychological therapies can help individuals manage these aspects of their condition.
To conclude, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the large intestine that causes abdominal pain and cramping. The main symptoms of IBS include diarrhea, constipation, pain and cramps, bloating, and food intolerance. When concerned about IBS you should see a doctor as soon as possible to get checked and diagnose properly.
There are several treatment options available for those who suffer from IBS though lifestyle changes, medications, or psychological therapies. However, it is always best to observe what works best for you as IBS behaves differently in every individual.
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