IBS is a disorder that occurs in the gastrointestinal system.
In America, an estimated 30 million people are affected by this problem. Worldwide, it affects between 10 and 15% of the entire human population.
Commonly referred to as IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a side effect of the interaction between a person’s diet and physiology. It’s about the things we eat and the way our bodies process them.
We will now take a closer look at the major causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of this common problem.
What Causes IBS?
Unlike problems such as tooth decay or broken bones, there is no definitive cause of IBS. Instead, it is associated with a collection of causes of including physiological (abnormal gastrointestinal tract movements), mental (increased awareness of bodily functions), and nervous (a disruption in the communication between the brain and the GI tract).
- One suggestion is that dietary allergies and food sensitivities are the cause of IBS, but this has yet to be conclusively proven.
- There are some cases of IBS developing after episodes of gastroenteritis.
- Another suggestion is that genetics are a potential cause of IBS, but this hereditary link has yet to be proven conclusive.
- Periods of stress are also known to lead to IBS symptoms but are unlikely to be the main cause of the development of IBS.
- It occurs more often in women than in men, with an average onset age of 35 in about 50% of the cases.
- IBS also occurs in between 5% – 20% of children.
Here is a list of the most common symptoms:
- bloating and gas
- abdominal pain
People with IBS may have episodes of both constipation (IBS-C), and diarrhea (IBS-D). In addition, symptoms such as bloating and gas are also common but usually cease after a bowel movement. Whatever the symptoms may be, they are rarely persistent, they go and come back again at unpredictable times.
IBS can affect everyone differently, to some people it can be debilitating, to others it is only moderately upsetting.
Doctors are capable of diagnosing a patient with IBS based just upon the symptoms they are experiencing.
For a more detailed analysis of the problem, and to rule out the possible causes, they may also take some of the following steps:
- Suggest you adopt dietary alterations in order to rule out food allergies.
- Examination of a stool sample to rule out the possibility of infection.
- Take blood tests in order to rule out anemia or celiac disease
- At a later stage, a doctor may also do a colonoscopy
Colonoscopies can rule out the possibility of illnesses such as cancer, colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
IBS and its symptoms are frequently connected with a person’s eating habits. This is partly because IBS will often occur around mealtime.
However, it is not easy for people to accurately pinpoint which foods are responsible for the problem. Consequentially, there is a large list of foods that are possible IBS “trigger foods”. Different items on these lists affecting people differently.
To make matters even more complicated, symptoms can come and go -even with the same food types. In other words, foods that trigger IBS in the month of January could be fine in February, before causing problems again in March. This is one of the reasons experts are unwilling to cite dietary reasons as the lone cause of IBS.
Despite this, it is still a good idea for sufferers to keep a note of foods and symptoms. Many people find a stable connection between certain foods and symptoms that can allow them to control their IBS simply by avoiding that group of foods.
A list of IBS Trigger Foods
Some of the foods and beverages most commonly associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome include:
- Fried Foods
- Fizzy Drinks
- Meat (White, Dark. and Red)
- Artificial Fat & Shortening
- Coconut milk
- Dairy Products
Unfortunately its a pretty comprehensive list with many much-loved items on it, however, it’s rare that IBS will be caused by more than a few of these items within the same person.
Because the causes and symptoms of IBS are multifaceted, the treatments on offer are too. Treatments can involve a mixture of different approaches including changes to diet and lifestyle, stress reduction, and in some cases the prescription of medications.
Usually, a combination of these treatments gives the best results and the most relief. Let’s take a closer look at some of the common treatment solutions.
Fiber & Laxatives
Laxatives and fiber supplements are both commonly prescribed by doctors in cases where the patient is suffering from constipation or diarrhea. Scott Brownlee, president of the Metamucil Fellows Society, has suggested fiber supplements can be helpful with both diarrhea and constipation.
Laxatives come with risk because using them they can lead to habitual consumption and addiction. In addition, adding fiber to a diet that is lacking has proven to reduce symptoms just as effectively.
If a doctor suspects a patient is suffering from over-sensitivity in the bowel muscles they may prescribe antispasmodic drugs or tranquilizers. These medications can work to reduce the sensation of pain and urgency. Anti-diarrhea medications are sometimes also prescribed.
There are numerous adjustments a person can make to their lifestyle to try and combat IBS. There is no guarantee that they will work but many have proven successful in the past.
Bloating and cramping can be dealt with by eating smaller portions throughout the day instead of the typical three large meal diet. Common health practices such as a well-balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and daily exercise are also recommended.
Another solution is found in relaxation training and meditation. While stress is not the cause of IBS, it can make the symptoms seem worse and occur more frequently.
IBS: A Brief Recap
With multiple causes, symptoms, and treatments available it is hard to be definitive about IBS. As a disorder, it is experienced differently to different people and might be caused by a variety of different reasons.
Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition as some symptoms are much more debilitating than others. The general progression tends to be from medical and supplementary support to diet and lifestyle adjustments. Once a medication has calmed down the more emphatic cases of IBS, the patient is then instructed to make the necessary lifestyle changes to try and keep symptoms at bay.