Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome
Are your off again, on again, bathroom habits affecting your daily life?
If so, you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.
IBS is a problem that causes abdominal pain, cramping, and changes in your bowel movements. IBS is known as a "functional bowel disorder", and is not considered a disease. What I mean by that, is when a doctor passes a colonoscope into the colon to look around, everything may look perfectly normal - but yet, Your colon may not be not be acting normal at all!
Symptoms of IBS can range from mild to severe. The main symptoms are diarrhea, constipation, or both...and you will probably experience abdominal pain, bloating, & gas.
These symptoms often will temporarily improve after having a bowel movement, and that instant relief of course feels good. But,the important thing to understand is that the root of the problem often isn't "here" (abdomen), its "here" (head). IBS is a classic example of your mind affecting your bowels. It's rarely seen in folks who are not stressed, anxious, or depressed.
It's often hard to determine why people get IBS. It has been found that IBS is twice as common in women as it is in men, and can develop at any age, but most get it as teenagers or in early adulthood.
Diet can also cause IBS. Foods that often cause IBS symptoms are Fatty foods, such as French fries, or any drink containing caffeine like coffee and tea.
One great idea is to keep a Food Diary. Write down what you're eating and when, and include the symptoms you experience after you eat. This information can be helpful to your doctor in identifying if you have IBS.
The way most doctors diagnose IBS is by gathering your history and ruling out other things like lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance or some sort of bowel infection. Your doctor might recommend a colonoscopy just to make sure the colon looks okay. But remember, there is no specific test to diagnose IBS.
So, how do you manage IBS?
For some people, symptoms can reduce their ability to work, travel, and attend social events, and some may have to deal with IBS the rest of their life. There are several ways to manage your IBS. Large meals can make your symptoms worse. Try eating 4 to 5 smaller meals per day. Extra Fiber can bulk up your stools to help with diarrhea or help draw in extra water to help with constipation. Laxatives can help with difficult constipation.
Drugs like Hyoscyamine help to calm down an overactive digestive tract. Lastly, since stress, depression and anxiety can fuel IBS, work on ways to relax. Perhaps, try exercise, meditation or yoga - and if that doesn't work, consider trying an antidepressant drug to help improve your mood.
Oh, and keep in mind that blood in your stool or significant weight loss are not part of IBS, so be sure to let your doctor know if that ever shows up. Remember that the mind and the body are interconnected. You can't expect to feel good "here" (head), without feeling good down "here" (abdomen), and vice versa.
Review Date: 2/19/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.