Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common chronic disorder of the bowel characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits with diarrhea and or constipation. IBS is a functional disorder that does not cause any changes in the lining of the bowel and no organic cause of the symptoms can be found during the work up. Unlike inflammatory bowel diseases, IBS does not increase the patient’s risk of cancer.
Irritable bowel syndrome affects women more than men and it usually begins in young adulthood.
Many patients with IBS have mild intermittent symptoms that can be controlled with diet and lifestyle changes. Some patients, however, have severe disabling symptoms that seriously affect their quality of life and require medications and multidisciplinary interventions.
The most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Bloating and gas
- Irregular bowel habits
Irritable bowel syndrome is a clinical diagnosis that may not require any testing. However, the symptoms can often overlap with other diseases and if they are not typical, your doctor may order certain blood tests. If there are any worrisome symptoms or if the symptoms start at an older age, other tests, such as a colonoscopy may be necessary to rule out other diseases.
- Diet: dietary interventions may include avoiding dairy products or gluten, increasing the fibers in the diet or following a low FODMAP diet. Eating easier to digest foods and avoiding triggers when identified are key.
- Medications: Several classes of medications can be used depending on the most bothersome symptoms; these include, anti spasmodics, anti diarrheals and laxatives, fiber supplements, anti depressants, antibiotics and other medications
- Herbs and natural therapies: such as Peppermint oil and probiotics
- Alternative therapies: Exercise, yoga, massage, acupuncture, and hypnosis can help with stress relief and improve the symptoms.