What is an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS, is a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder affecting our digestive system. It is also known as irritable bowel syndrome, irritable colon, and spastic colon. IBS is usually triggered by abdominal pain, stomach cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. An important thing to note is that IBS is a lifetime issue; to treat it better, one must change their diet and lifestyle. However, an important thing to underline is that this disease is not associated with the large intestine but with the brain. The common causes of IBS are stress, anxiety, depression, increased consumption of fatty acids, caffeine, and more. Medical science believes that irritable bowel syndrome depends on the coordination of an individual’s brain and bowel systems. Three types of IBS situations affect the human body:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation: This is the type of IBS wherein an individual has trouble pooping.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea: This is the type of IBS wherein an individual has loose motions.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Mixed Bowels: This is the type of IBS wherein an individual has mixed symptoms of constipation and lose of motions
In the history of medical science, the exact reason IBS happens is unknown. Some common reasons IBS can occur are genetics, stress, anxiety, issues in colonic motility, vulnerability to certain foods, and more. IBS is found in teenagers and adults. However, it is less likely to impact people above 50 years.
Furthermore, below is the list of a combination of several factors that can lead to IBS:
- The intestine has walls that help it pass the food through the digestive tract; this functionality is completed with the help of contract muscles. When contractions are muscular and happen for longer intervals, it can lead to specific issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. However, when contractions are weak, they can trouble an individual passing the stool, leading to constipation.
- The biggest reason for having an IBS is poor coordination between the brain and intestine. This can create havoc as the body cannot understand the straightforward process of excretion, which further leads to abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
- Anybody with a past medical history of gastroenteritis is more prone to contracting an IBS
- People with highly stressful lifestyles are more to contract IBS
Another critical fact to note is that the following factors usually trigger IBS:
- Food Habits: Certain foods and beverages, namely wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, junk food, and carbonated drinks, can trigger symptoms of IBS. The best way to manage this is to create a complete food list to note the food items affecting your health and causing pain. This will help the doctor to understand your food allergies and provide treatment accordingly
- Stressful Lifestyle: Stress is bad for health, and studies have shown that stress can inflate IBS. It is, therefore, essential to practice stress-releasing activities such as exercise, meditation, and yoga
IBS is a disease that needs to be managed throughout one’s life, and IBS symptoms differ for everyone. Some people have severe IBS symptoms that affect their travel life social life; however, for some people, it is about making certain adjustments in life and food habits. Individuals are diagnosed with IBS when they have the below-mentioned symptoms for three months or more. The most common symptoms of IBS are listed below:
- Abdominal Pain
- Stomach Cramps and or bloating
- Changes in the bowel movement, such as time and color
- Excess gas
- Mucus in your poop
- Diarrhea (IBS-D) and Constipation (IBS-C)
The symptoms mentioned above can aggravate based on the frequency and the type of bowel movements. An individual can have severe symptoms at the onset, but there is a decline with the proper treatment and correct diagnoses. Losing the appetite is also one of the significant issues for many people.
It is well known that there is no specific treatment for IBS; the doctor will prescribe the treatment based on individual symptoms and past medical conditions. To identify the causes that trigger IBS, the doctor may recommend the following test:
- Blood tests
- Stool examination and stool cultures
- Microscopic exam of a stool sample
- Fecal Calprotectin
The medical professional usually prescribes certain medicines to treat IBS, such as Antispasmodics, Anti-diarrheal Agents, Laxatives, and Anti-anxiety medications.
Furthermore, doctors may suggest specific lifestyle changes, such as asking the patient to monitor their diet and take note of the food that causes stomach aches, vomiting, constipation, and more. Any food item that worsens the situation needs to be avoided.
Any stressful activity can further aggravate IBS symptoms, leading to bowel movements, fatigue, or low energy. Taking a good amount of rest and proper exercise can help reduce stress levels and positively influence IBS.
Can stress and anxiety affect Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Stress can create havoc on your body, mind, and gut, creating an imbalance in the stomach as the balance between the brain and the gut is challenged, further affecting the intestine and bowel movements. Furthermore, IBS and psychiatric disorders are interrelated in a way that people with anxiety, stress, and depression have IBS or vice-versa. Stress and anxiety can have damaging effects on IBS:
- Makes immune system inflamed
- Reduce the blood flow in the intestine
- Aggravates the intestinal permeability
- reduces intestinal blood flow
Doctors advise patients to manage their stress by identifying the trigger points in life and adopting the activities such as adopting and following a stress management plan, sleeping for seven to eight hours at night, and so on. Additionally, diet management also helps in lowering the trigger points of IBS.
What should be the diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Diet plays a significant role in the overall management of IBS, as some foods may trigger the symptoms of IBS. Hence, research in recent years has emphasized diet management and other lifestyle changes. Some standard dietary things to consider when diagnosed with IBS are as follows:
- Increased consumption of homemade meals
- Understanding and noting the diet trigger points
- Intake of probiotics as advised by the doctor
- Reducing the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and fat
- Staying hydrated
What is the diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
At the initial stage, an individual can visit the primary care physician/ general physician about the symptoms and health issues related to IBS. GP may then refer the individual to the gastroenterologist, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Gastrologists are skilled in treating the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver.
Your healthcare provider may discuss the complete medical history of you and your family and may recommend some tests, such as Colonoscopy, CT Scan, and Upper endoscopy.
What are the natural remedies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Distinct home remedies are readily available, which can help individuals manage symptoms and pain related to IBS; these home remedies do not include any medicines.
Below mentioned is the list of home remedies:
- Performing regular physical activity
- Reducing the consumption of certain beverages and food that trigger pain in the abdominal and intestine issues
- Taking mini-meals at a constant interval
- Adopting a stress-free lifestyle may include taking some counseling, practicing relaxing techniques, and more
- Including probiotic-rich diets such as intaking yogurt, cheeses, sour pickles, and more to ease gas and stomach bloating
- Abstaining from Junk Food, Deep-fried Food, and Spicy Food
IBS may be a life-long issue. Its symptoms can be troublesome for some people as it can affect their regular lifestyle by reducing their capability to work, travel, and socialize. However, on a positive note, IBS improves with treatment and does not cause any everlasting harm to the intestine or further aggravate other diseases such as Cancer. Hence the best way to manage IBS is to lead a disciplined lifestyle by reducing the intake of certain food items and increasing information on fibers, laxatives, and more. Some people are also advised to take drugs that help calm an overactive digestive system and some anti-depressant to help the brain. Lastly, an important thing to note is that both body-mind are interconnected; any issue up can see a point down, and vice versa. Therefore, having a healthy body and mind is imperative to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Disclaimer: This blog has been written after performing in-depth secondary research related to the topic from various articles, blogs, and journals with expertise in writing for healthcare. The content on this page should not be considered a substitute for medical expertise. We advise you to book an appointment with the doctor for any doubts.