Irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long lasting, chronic gut disorder that causes abdominal pain, altered bowel habits with frequent diarrhea and other similar symptoms.
It is important to understand the difference between IBS and other similar illness like the inflammatory bowel disease (IDB) with Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) being one of its types. The main divergence between the aforementioned diseases is that in case of IBS the bowel structure remains intact, while in IDB case various elements of digestive system can be altered through attacks by the body’s own immune system.

What causes IBS

While the true cause of IBS remains unexplained there is a consensus amongst medical experts that there is a possible relation to increased gut sensitivity. Patients with IBS have alterations in their normal mobility and sensibility of their bowels, often caused by mental health problems. It can also appear after a bowel infection (Bacterial Gastroenteritis).
There is a clear relation between the brain and bowel movements. In stress situations bowel movements are affected whereby the bowel itself becomes more sensitive leading to an increased number of contractions. Symptoms appear at any age but often start during youth and adolescence; usually twice as many women suffer from IBS as men. This should be one of the main reasons for seeing a gastroenterologist.

IBS Symptoms

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, being different for every patient. The most common symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain or discomfort, abdominal bloating, and flatulence at least 3 days a month during 3 months. Very often IBS symptoms, especially the pain will disappear after stool and appear with changes in bowel habits. Alternation between diarrhea and constipation is very typical, having mainly one of the two.

Irritable bowel syndrome diarrhea

People with IBS diarrhea usually have loose, watery stools three or more times a day and experience an urgency to have a bowel movement. When blood appears in stools we should always consult the doctor. If the bleeding appears in conjunction with constipation it can be caused by hemorrhoids. Some patients suffer such symptoms for short periods of time while others have to live with them most of the time. People with this illness can also have lack of appetite.

TESTS AND EXAMS

There is no specific test that can diagnose the illness. In most cases it can be diagnosed by recognising the associated symptoms, with just a few examinations. Moreover, having a lactose free diet for two weeks can help the doctor to evaluate the possibility of lactose intolerance. Some tests will be undertaken to eliminate the possibility of existence of other digestive infections. These include blood and feces tests to detect infections. Occasionally, in addition to the blood test and examination of patient’s medical history, a colonoscopy is performed. Colonoscopy consists in introducing a flexible catheter through the anus to view the colon. This test is recommended when:
– Symptoms started after the age of 50
– Weight loose or rectal bleeding
– Unusual results in blood tests
– Family history of bowel disease.
Other disorders than can have similar symptoms are:
– Celiac disease
– Polyps and diverticulosis
– Colon cancer
– Crohn’s disease.

How to alleviate the symptoms of IBS?

Because there is no actual cause of IBS as such the main objective of the treatment, therefore, is to minimize the symptoms. A healthy approach to life will improve your well-being and help alleviate some of the symptoms. For example, regular exercise and strict sleeping schedule can reduce anxiety helping to reduce IBS symptoms.
Changing your diet plays an important part in reducing IBS symptoms. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet for people with IBS. What diet works best for you will highly depend on your symptoms, on the one hand, and your reaction to different foods, on the other.
Changes that may help:
– Avoid certain food and drinks that stimulate bowel, such as coffee or tea.
– Avoid big meals
– Increase fiber in your food (this helps to prevent constipation, but not diarrhea)
Starting your own treatment without consulting the doctor is not recommended. Each case is different and there is no single medication that could work for all patients. Therapies can help improve IBS symptoms by addressing mental health problems.
Some of the medical treatments include:
– Antispasmodics: taken half an hour before meals to control bowl spasms;
– Bisacodilo: to treat constipation;
– Loperamide: to treat diarhea;
– Antidepressants: taken in low doses to relive from bowl pains;
– Lubriprostone: taken in case of constipation;
– Antibiotic rifaximin.

Prognosis

Irritable bowel syndrome can remain life long; therefore we want the symptoms to be the less frequent and as mild as possible. It is important since for some patients these symptoms have a negative effect upon their lives.

When to seek medical assistance?

Consult your doctor if you notice any of the aforementioned IBS symptoms such as persistent changes in your stool. This syndrome is also known as Irritable Colon or Spastic Colon.