Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What Your Doctor Wishes You to Know
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is an abdominal disease characterized by a combination of abdominal pain, discomfort, and altered bowel habits. It may involve an altered frequency (constipation or diarrhea) or altered stool form (soft, liquid, or thin and hard).
IBS is a common disease that affects about 55 million Americans, the majority being women. Most often, it affects people in their late teens to early 40s. IBS is not a fatal condition, and it does not predispose an individual to other colon conditions such as colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or any of the heart and nerves diseases. But it can be a chronic condition that can significantly impair the quality of life of its victims.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS can cause several symptoms that include:
- Diarrhea alternating with constipation
- Cramps or abdominal pains in the lower part of the abdomen that can be aggravated by eating and relieved by bowel movement
- Bloating or excess gas
- Harder or looser stool
- Visible abdominal distention
- Mucus in the bowel movement
- Some people exhibit other symptoms not related to the digestive tract such as sexual problems and urinary symptoms
The symptoms of IBS tend to worsen with stress.
Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Experts still don’t understand the causes of IBS. Most specialists think that it is a bowel motility problem where the bowel muscles don’t contract normally, thus affecting the movement of stool.
The diagnosis of IBS depends on the recognition of the symptoms and a thorough evaluation to rule out other causes. No specific lab tests are possible to diagnose IBS.
Your doctor can run tests for conditions such as:
- Intolerance or food allergies such as lactose intolerance
- Medications such as iron, other antacids, or high blood pressure drugs
- Enzyme deficiencies such as failure of the pancreas to secrete enough enzymes to break down food
- Inflammatory bowel conditions that include Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
Your doctor may suggest avoiding certain foods or drinks for three weeks to establish if your diet is the cause of your problem.
Since the cause of this condition is not known, the disorder is impossible to prevent. Once you are diagnosed with IBS, you may reduce the severity and frequency of the symptoms by changing your diet or reducing your stress levels.
IBS is not a life-threatening condition, but it can cause you significant discomfort. Experts don’t know the exact cause of the disease. Thus, you need to ensure that you eat a well-balanced, sanitary diet. If you experience any indications of this condition, consult your medical caregiver as soon as possible for medical intervention.