Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disease affecting the intestines. It is also called spastic colon. The cause of IBS is not known, but stress and emotions are known to worsen the symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder, affecting females more often than males. Most individuals generally begin having symptoms of IBS in their early 20’s.
The diagnosis of IBS is made by eliminating other causes. Other causes of abdominal pain and changing bowel habits must be ruled out before making the diagnosis of IBS.
Procedures such as barium enema x-ray or colonoscopy are sometimes ordered to exclude other causes. This disease is not curable. It is usually recurrent through life. The symptoms can be managed with diet, medications and lifestyle changes. It does not appear that IBS causes other conditions such as cancer.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

The main symptoms of IBS are episodes of abdominal pain and changing bowel habits. These episodes can last for days to months. The abdominal pain is described as crampy and does not occur in any particular location. Other symptoms such as indigestion, heartburn and bloating occur less frequently. Rarely nausea and vomiting occur. The pain generally begins after meals and is relived by bowel movements. The changing bowel habits may involve diarrhea, constipation or periods of both. With constipation, the bowel movement may be “pellet-like” or in small balls. The diarrhea may have mucus in it.

Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

The treatment of IBS focuses on lifestyle and dietary changes. A high fiber diet is the primary treatment. Fiber supplements are helpful if used on a regular basis. Increased gas and bloating may occur for the first 2 weeks of fiber supplements and generally resolve with time. Constipating agents such as Imodium will relive diarrhea symptoms. Antispasmodics will help with abdominal cramping. It is important to drink 8 glasses of water daily. If large meals cause cramping and diarrhea, try eating smaller meals more often or eating smaller portions. Other common triggers of IBS are smoking and alcohol.

What To Do:

Maintain proper eating habits and select foods carefully.
Stop Smoking.
Gradually increase fiber in your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources, but be careful because they can cause gas and bloating.
Try to reduce stress.
Avoid large meals, spicy, fried and fatty foods, milk products and alcohol.

When to Call Your Physician:

If fever develops.
If there is blood in the stool or stool is black and tarry.
If vomiting develops.
If unexplained weight loss occurs.
If symptoms do not improve with treatment.

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