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Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, And More

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that affects the large intestine.

Constipation, diarrhea, cramps, bloating, and abdominal pain are its hallmarks. IBS affects 10-15% of the population and is a common ailment.

There is no cure for IBS, but there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms. IBS is a lifelong condition, but the symptoms may come and go and often flare up in times of stress.

Let’s discuss its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, triggers, and treatment.

Types Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

There are several different types of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can be classified[1] based on the symptoms that a person experiences.

The most common types of IBS are-

IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant IBS): This type of IBS is characterized by loose, watery stools and abdominal pain.

IBS-C (constipation-predominant IBS): This type of IBS is characterized by hard, dry stools and abdominal pain.

IBS-M (mixed-type IBS): This type of IBS is characterized by both loose, watery stools and hard, dry stools, as well as abdominal pain.

Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

There are a variety of symptoms associated[2] with IBS, and they can vary from person to person. The most common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor so they can properly diagnose and treat your condition.

The Causes Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The exact cause of IBS is still unknown, but several factors may contribute[3] to the development of the condition-

  • Genetics: IBS may be more common in people who have a family history of the condition.
  • Psychological Factors: Stress, anxiety, and depression are all thought to play a role in the development of IBS.
  • Gut Bacteria: IBS has been connected to an unbalanced gut bacterial population.
  • Diet: Certain foods may trigger IBS symptoms in some people.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Triggers

There are many different[4] triggers for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and each person with IBS may have different triggers. Common triggers include-

  1. Certain foods

    The following is a list of some common trigger foods:

    • Dairy products
    • Wheat
    • Beans
    • Cabbage
    • Chocolate
    • Coffee
    • Alcohol
    • Citrus fruits
  2. Stress

    Stress is a response to different encounters in life when the body tends[5] to release certain hormones and this situation of stress might pose trouble towards mental peace.

    Stress can cause the digestive system to go into overdrive, which can lead to[6] the symptoms of IBS. Therefore, it is important to find ways to manage stress to help control IBS.

    When a person experiences stress on a usual basis and has been acquainted with it for a long time, it may result in increased chances of developing IBS.

  3. Changes In Routine

    Changes in Routine may disrupt the delicate balance of the bacteria in your gut.

    These bacteria play an important[7] role in digestion, and when they’re out of balance, it can lead to stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

Keep a journal to help identify your triggers.

Try to avoid the trigger once you’ve identified it. Try to manage it in a way that lessens its impact if you can’t prevent it.

For example, if stress is a trigger, try relaxation techniques or talk to your doctor about stress management.

How Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?

No one test can diagnose IBS, but a combination of tests and symptoms may be used[2] to make a diagnosis.

A doctor may start with a physical exam and a review of your medical history.

They may also order blood tests, a stool sample test, or an imaging test to rule out other conditions.

Your doctor can refer you to a gastroenterologist for more testing if these tests don’t identify your condition.

If these tests come back normal, your doctor may diagnose you with IBS based on your symptoms.

Treatment Options For Irritable Bowel Syndrome

There is currently no cure for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but there are a variety of treatments that can assist[8] to lessen the symptoms.

Some of the most common treatments include-

  1. Dietary Changes

    If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), making dietary changes can be an effective way to manage your symptoms.

    While there is no one-size-fits-all diet for IBS, there are certain foods and nutrients that can help to ease symptoms.

    Here are some dietary changes you can make if you have IBS-

    • Limit high-fat foods.
    • Avoid trigger foods, such as caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and fatty or spicy foods.
    • Eat small, frequent meals.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish, and avoid processed foods, grains, and dairy.
    • Eliminate all refined and processed carbohydrates, including sugars, starches, and grains.
  2. Low-FODMAP Diet

    The Low-FODMAP diet is designed[9] to minimize the intake of foods that contain fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

    These are short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the gut and can trigger IBS symptoms in some people.

    By reducing the intake of these foods, the Low-FODMAP diet can help to alleviate symptoms of IBS.

  3. Increase Physical Activity

    Increasing physical activity has been linked[10] to a positive effect on lowering the symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

    To lessen the long-term impacts of the syndrome, you might consider making lifestyle changes and adding exercise to your routine.

  4. Reduce Stress

    People switch to unhealthier habits like smoking or drinking while they’re stressed. Rather than that, practice stress-relieving techniques like yoga or meditation.

  5. Get Enough Sleep

    People dealing with IBS may have trouble[11] sleeping, as abdominal pain and diarrhea could hinder their sleeping patterns.

    Hence, you might try getting a sound sleep using various techniques[12] like drinking chamomile tea or practicing meditation techniques to feel rested and rejuvenated.

    A good night’s sleep could help you avoid worsening the symptoms of IBS.

  6. Pain Relievers

    There are a variety of pain relievers available for people with IBS. The type of pain reliever that is best for you will depend on the severity of your pain and your personal preferences.

    If you are looking for a natural pain reliever, several herbs and supplements can help[13] to ease IBS pain. Some of the most popular options include peppermint oil, ginger, and turmeric.

    Medications like anti-depressants could help in providing some relief[14] from IBS symptoms like pain and constipation.

    Whereas, anti-diarrheal medications and laxatives could further be advised[15] by medical professionals to people dealing[16] with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Living With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you live with IBS, it is important to be patient with yourself and to understand that your symptoms may fluctuate over time.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing IBS, but there are many different options available to you.

Some people find that making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, can help to lessen their symptoms.

For some people, taking medicine might be necessary to control[2] their symptoms.

Final Remark

You are not the only person who experiences irritable bowel syndrome. This condition affects millions of people worldwide.

While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, several factors contribute to its development, including stressful events, changes in diet, and genetic predisposition.

There is no cure for IBS, but fortunately, there are several treatments that can help to relieve its symptoms. Consult a doctor before taking any action if you suspect you may have.

References/Sources

Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1. Lekha Saha. Irritable bowel syndrome: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and evidence-based medicine. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Jun 14; 20(22): 6759–6773. Published online 2014 Jun 14. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i22.6759
  2. Brian E Lacy. Diagnosis and treatment of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Int J Gen Med. 2016; 9: 7–17. Published online 2016 Feb 11. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S93698
  3. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Available from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Available from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs
  5. Stress. Available from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/stress
  6. Hong-Yan Qin, Chung-Wah Cheng, Xu-Dong Tang, et al. Impact of psychological stress on irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct 21; 20(39): 14126–14131. Published online 2014 Oct 21. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i39.14126
  7. Yu-Jie Zhang, Sha Li, Ren-You Gan,et al. Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Apr; 16(4): 7493–7519. Published online 2015 Apr 2. doi: 10.3390/ijms16047493
  8. Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Available from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/treatment
  9. Low FODMAP diets. Available from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/low-fodmap-diets
  10. Elisabet Johannesson, Gisela Ringström, Hasse Abrahamsson, et al. Intervention to increase physical activity in irritable bowel syndrome shows long-term positive effects. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Jan 14; 21(2): 600–608. Published online 2015 Jan 14. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i2.600
  11. Vikesh Khanijow, Pia Prakash, Helene A. Emsellem. Sleep Dysfunction and Gastrointestinal Diseases. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2015 Dec; 11(12): 817–825.
  12. Mehrdad Abdullahzadeh, Pegah Matourypour, and Sayed Ali Naji. Investigation effect of oral chamomilla on sleep quality in elderly people in Isfahan: A randomized control trial. J Educ Health Promot. 2017; 6: 53. Published online 2017 Jun 5. doi: 10.4103/jehp.jehp_109_15
  13. Amanda C. Fifi, Cara Hannah Axelrod, Partha Chakraborty, et al. Herbs and Spices in the Treatment of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Review of Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2018 Nov; 10(11): 1715. Published online 2018 Nov 9. doi: 10.3390/nu10111715
  14. R E Clouse. Antidepressants for irritable bowel syndrome. Gut. 2003 Apr; 52(4): 598–599. doi: 10.1136/gut.52.4.598
  15. Meredith Portalatin and Nathaniel Winstead. Medical Management of Constipation. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2012 Mar; 25(1): 12–19. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1301754
  16. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Available from https://medlineplus.gov/irritablebowelsyndrome.html

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