What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that interferes with the normal functions of the colon. It causes a great deal of discomfort with cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating abdominal pain. It is more commonly found in women than in men. IBS affects more of the general population than we realize. IBS affects one in five Americans today making it on of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. IBS does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to diseases, such as cancer.
For some people suffering from IBS it can be disabling. They may be unable to work, travel, or attend social events. They may find it difficult to maneuver while symptoms are flaring up. Symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, bloating, change in frequency of bowel movements, change in appearance of bowel movements, uncontrollable urgency to have a bowel movement, mucus in stool, and difficulty trying to pass stool. Symptoms can vary with each person. Some people with IBS may feel depression or anxiety, which can in turn worsen the symptoms of IBS. A specific cause for IBS has yet to be found. There is ongoing research being done for IBS which have found that large meals, medicines, wheat, rye barley, chocolate, milk products, alcohol, bloating from gas, caffeine, stress, emotional upsets, and menstrual periods have been associated with worsening the symptoms of IBS.
Unfortunately IBS goes undiagnosed in most people for long periods of time before they are diagnosed with it. There is no specific test for IBS but a colonoscopy will allow your doctor to look inside the colon. X-rays are of no use in diagnosing IBS. Many options are available to treat the symptoms of IBS however no cure is available at this time. Change of diet and management of stress will help significantly. Choosing a proper diet can reduce IBS symptoms. You may want to keep a journal to keep track of the foods that seem to cause symptoms to flare up. In many cases fiber may lessen IBS symptoms, particularly constipation. Whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables are some good sources of fiber. Also, drink 6-8 glasses of plain water a day. Carbonated drinks will lead to gas as well as eating too quickly, so take your time eating your food. Large meals can also cause cramping and diarrhea so try eating smaller meals more often. Eat at regular times, don't skip meals. Regular daily exercise will help to decrease the stress levels as well as IBS symptoms. IBS symptoms will be worse at times and at other times they will improve or even disappear completely. People with IBS often report that family members have also suffered from the disorder. This would suggest a possible genetic cause.