Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastro-intestinal disorder with symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and other changes in a person's bowel movements without other indications of infection, etc. It's a common disorder affecting the large intestine (colon). Unlike inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, IBS doesn't cause colorectal cancer or other visible changes in bowel tissue.
The symptoms of IBS may subside for a while or worsen at other times. In some cases, Irritable Bowel Syndrome may disappear entirely.
Gastroenterologists categorise Irritable Bowel Syndrome into:
- IBS-D (diarrhea predominant)
- IBS-C (constipation predominant)
- IBS-M (mixed diarrhea and constipation)
- IBS-A (alternating diarrhea and constipation)
Most doctors rely on a combination of laboratory and radiographic tests to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. Diagnosis is made by eliminating conditions that produce IBS-like symptoms, and then following a procedure to categorize the patient's symptoms. Tests to determine Irritable Bowel Syndrome may include:
- Testing for food allergies or intolerances, and poor dietary habits;
- Verifying whether patients are taking high blood pressure drugs, iron, and specific antacids;
- Enzyme deficiencies where the pancreas isn't secreting enough enzymes to completely digest or break down food;
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, i. e., ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
Not all people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome react to the same stimuli/factors in the same way. Stimuli differ from person to person
Common triggers are:
IBS symptoms may become severe in some people when they ingest certain foods, though it's not certain whether food allergies or intolerances cause irritable bowel syndrome. Everything from chocolate, spices, fats, fruits, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, milk, carbonated beverages and alcohol cause reactions in people with IBS.
People with IBS may discover that symptoms become worse or more frequent during periods of increased stress, such as during exam time or personal tragedies. Stress aggravates symptoms, it is not the main cause.
As more women than men are likely to have IBS, researchers believe hormonal changes contribute to this condition. Many women notice that symptoms worsen during or around the time of their menstrual periods.
As mentioned earlier, sever cases of infectious diarrhoea or too many bacteria in the intestines (bacterial overgrowth) may cause IBS.
People under the age of 45 y.o. tend to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Research suggests that if some people in the family have IBS, others may be at increased risk of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Anxiety, depression, personality disorders are risk factors. Domestic abuse may also be a risk factor for women.
In most cases, treatment focuses on relieving IBS symptoms, so sufferers can live a normal life. Mild symptoms and signs can be controlled by managing stress, along with making dietary and lifestyle changes. Dietary Changes include:
- Avoiding caffeine, i. e., coffee, teas, and bottled drinks, etc
- Adding fibre- eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts;
- Drinking a minimum of 3 - 4 glasses of water in a day;
- Quit smoking;
- Relaxing, by getting more exercise or reducing stress in your life;
- Limiting milk or cheese;
- Eating smaller meals more often rather than big meals thrice a day;
People who suspect they suffer from IBS or those diagnosed with IBS should keep a record of the foods they eat so healthcare providers and dieticians will be able to find out which foods aggravate IBS. Foods known to aggravate IBS symptoms are:
- Red peppers or chillies,
- Green onions,
- Red wine,
- Wheat, and
- Cow's milk.
Alternate sources of calcium are broccoli, spinach, greens, tofu, yogurt, sardines, salmon with bones, calcium-fortified orange juice and breads, or calcium supplements.
Antidiarrheal & antispasmodic medicines, laxatives, bulking agents, antidepressants, etc., are prescribed by doctors for moderate to severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is essential to follow the precise dosage as irregularity, under or over dosing on IBS medications may worsen the condition.