Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition that affects hundreds of a people at a time. It is a chronic illness that have long-term effects on the lives of those who live with it. Find out more about this common condition, some common IBS symptoms, and the ways to cope in case IBS afflicts you or a loved one.
What it is
As mentioned earlier, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic condition that occurs throughout the life of a person living with it. When it gets triggered, IBS symptoms manifest almost immediately. While the specific cause of this condition is still not known, most doctors would say that it might be linked to any of the following causes and/or triggers:
- Overly-sensitive nerves in the large intestines
- Food not moving in the ideal speed as it passes through the large intestines (either too fast or too slow)
- Genetic predisposition
- Excessive intake of oily food
- Localized inflammation in the large intestines
- Serious infection
- Contraction of muscles found in the large intestines
- Imbalance of bacteria found in the large intestines
- Hormonal changes
IBS symptoms vary depending on the type of IBS. Here are the three identified types of IBS and what their symptoms are:
- IBS with Diarrhea. This is the first and most common type. IBS symptoms in this type include wet or watery stool, irregular bowel movement, stomach discomfort and pain, and an urgent need to go to the comfort room again and again.
- IBS with Constipation. IBS symptoms for this type of are pretty straightforward. Bowel movement is so infrequent that it will ultimately lead to stomach pain and discomfort and a feeling of bloatedness. There is also difficulty in passing bowel because it sometimes is hard, sharp, or lumpy.
- IBS with both Diarrhea and Constipation. Symptoms of previously mentioned types occur alternately.
Other IBS symptoms that are common in all three types are:
- Stomach cramps
- Straining while passing stool
- Mucus-like substances mixed with the stool
- Back pain
- Urinating concerns (urinating too frequently, constant urge to urinate, and so on)
When To See The Doctor
IBS symptoms also vary depending on the severity of the case. Some have mild symptoms while others experience more serious manifestations of this condition. The question is: When are IBS symptoms so serious that you would need to see a doctor for proper medical intervention? Here are some of the situations that you should seriously consider doing so:
- Stomach pain that does not go away even after you already have passed stool or gas
- Gradual loss of weight
- Difficulty in swallowing food or drink
- Persistent diarrhea especially at night
- Recurrent vomiting and nausea
- Dark-colored stool (probable bleeding)
- Rectal bleeding
- IBS symptoms continue to persist even after medical intervention or dietary changes
While all these are IBS symptoms, there might be more serious underlying conditions especially if these are recurrent. To find out for sure whether it is IBS or something completely different, it would be best to see the doctor once two or more of these symptoms manifest.
For a person to be diagnosed with IBS, a series of consultations and tests will be done. You will be asked what among the IBS symptoms have you experienced, how often you experience them, and the severity of these symptoms. The doctor might also ask you what you have eaten or drunk before the symptoms set in. This way, he/she can pinpoint what your triggers are because these will also depend from patient to patient. Make sure you have taken note of all these so you can give an accurate picture of your current situation so that diagnosis and intervention will be consequently accurate as well.
Common tests for a possible IBS disease include taking a sample of your stool and a blood test so the doctor can rule out other diseases or conditions that cause similar symptoms as IBS.
Other tests that might be requested are:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- CT Scan or X-ray
- Breath test
- Lactose intolerance
Each of these tests has a specific purpose. However, in the end, it will give you a definite answer whether you have IBS or not.
Unfortunately, IBS does not have any cure but it is not hopeless. Many have successfully attained quality lives despite having to live with the constant risk of IBS symptoms flaring up. They have achieved this by changing some of their food, beverage, and lifestyle choices. Here are some of the ways that you can also do in order for you to live with IBS free from fear and hopelessness:
- Always use fresh ingredients when you cook food.
- To have control over food preparation, it would be advisable to cook your own food.
- Find ways to cope with stress since stress is a common trigger of IBS.
- Exercises regularly.
- Drink sufficient amount of water.
- Monitor what you eat so you can pinpoint what triggers your IBS
- Eat at an ideal pace. Do not eat too fast.
- Avoid alcohol, carbonated drinks, too much raw fruit
- Tea or coffee should be limited to, at the very most, three cups in a day.
- Avoid eating oily, fatty, processed, or spicy food.
- Eating oats can help. So do probiotic drinks.
- Steer clear from food that is difficult to break down.
- Increase high fiber food if constipated. Limit high fiber food if experiencing diarrhea.
- If the pain is too much, you can ask the doctor for pain medication.
- Avoid chocolates and sorbitol since both can exacerbate IBS symptoms particularly the latter
- The inclusion of gluten in the diet if living with IBS with diarrhea
You might want to consult your physician regarding the following over-the-counter and prescription drugs that can possibly alleviate IBS symptoms:
- Bismuth Salicylate
- Anticholinergic and anti-diarrheal medication
- Laxatives and fiber-infused vitamins or supplements for constipated patients
IBS does not have to be a constant threat to you. Dealing with IBS symptoms should not stop you from fully enjoying life. With this information, you can plan out what to even before experiencing a flare-up. By being ahead, you can minimize the risk of experiencing any IBS symptoms or you will not panic once any of the symptoms pass in.