Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What is IBS?
IBS is a condition caused by a dysfunction of our gut, not an actual structural problem.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, is a very common disorder in the United States, with about 10-15% of the population being diagnosed with it.There can be different types of IBS, such as diarrhea predominant (diarrhea, abdominal pain, urgency), constipation predominant, (abdominal pain, bloating or constipation) or mixed (alternating diarrhea and constipation). Figuring out which one you have can help us determine the right treatment for you.
The exact cause of IBS is still unclear. However, research shows that patients with abdominal pain, constipation, flatulence, with no other cause identified may have a GI tract that is more sensitive than others and works either more quickly or more slowly than it should. Occasional diarrhea or constipation is also normal and can happen to most people. The key is to rule out more life threatening conditions, which is sometimes done with imaging, lab tests and stool studies. Sometimes a colonoscopy is needed to rule out other issues.
Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome even real?
Yes, IBS is a real syndrome. It is not caused by stress and anxiety, however, stress and anxiety can definitely make your symptoms worse. It is caused by a dysfunction or hyperactivity of the nerves that work in the gut. Your GI tract may move more slowly or more quickly than the average person.
What we do know, is that IBS is thankfully, not a life threatening condition, just tough to live with and cope with. Easing stress and anxiety can help, as well as incorporating special diets like the FODMAP diet. There are also different treatments, such as the ones listed below.
How is IBS treated?
- Focus on lifestyle changes, reduction of stress and dietary changes.
- Try limiting the amount of gas-producing foods, also known as high-FODMAP foods such as fruit, sugar, dairy, beans, onions, broccoli or cabbage. Some people are sensitive to gluten, so you can try excluding that from your diet.
- Try to reduce the amount carbonated beverages.
- Avoid sugar substitutes
Life stress can make any condition worse, and that’s no exception for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Research has found that reducing life stressors, or getting into a relaxing hobby such as yoga or exercise can definitely alleviate symptoms.
There is no cure for IBS, so the treatment is by treating symptoms. Research suggests that fiber, anti-spasm medications and peppermint oil can all help reduce severity and frequency of symptoms. Also treating with anti-diarrheal medications and anti-constipating medicationYour doctor will work with you to try to figure out what life modifications and possibly medications work for you. A lot of it is trial and error to figure out which is the best fit for your needs.