Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a painful intestinal disorder that affects millions of people every day. While it may vary from one person to another, an attack can come on suddenly and without warning, disrupting the life of the person who has it. The pain can be sharp and in many cases excruciating. If you suspect that you are suffering from IBS it would be to your advantage to learn as much as you can about irritable bowel syndrome signs, symptoms and treatments.
The Symptoms in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Signs, Symptoms and Treatments:
While IBS can be very unpleasant when a flare up occurs, it is comforting to know that in the majority of cases the symptoms are not severe. Since the symptoms can vary from person to person, in order to identify the case in a particular individual it is important to look for a combination of symptoms rather than something specific. The most common complaints include abdominal pain or cramping, which is often relieved after a bowel movement, excessive gas and bloating, and sometimes diarrhea or constipation (in some cases the body can alternate between the two with diarrhea at one time followed by constipation). Patients may also observe mucus in their stools.
In the majority of cases of IBS, there will be varying degrees in the intensity of the symptoms. At times, the pain will be excruciating and at other times it can be mild with no logical explanation for the difference. These cases can be followed by weeks or months where there are no symptoms at all and everything returns to normal.
The good news is that while IBS flare ups can be very painful and uncomfortable, research has determined that there are things you can do to manage them. With the right knowledge about irritable bowel syndrome signs, symptoms and treatments most people will be able to handle it simply by watching their diet and making a few basic lifestyle changes. In other cases where the symptoms are more frequent and severe there may be a need for medication and even psychological counseling to manage the pain.
Should You See a Doctor?
Unless the condition is extremely severe there is no need to see a doctor for treatment of IBS symptoms. However, there are a few signs you should be watchful for that may indicate that your IBS symptoms are an indication of something that is more serious. You should see your doctor if there is a persistent change in bowel habits or any of the other symptoms of IBS. If the symptoms are accompanied by an unexplained weight loss, frequent bouts of diarrhea at night, bleeding from the rectum, anemia, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, or stomach cramping that persists even after a bowel movement, these could be the early signs of colon cancer or another life-threatening condition.
What Causes IBS:
Scientific studies still have not determined the exact cause of IBS but they have identified some things that may contribute to a flare up including:
- Involuntary muscle contractions in the walls of the intestines. The muscles that line the intestines are responsible for moving food through the digestive tract. If they contract when they are not supposed to they can cause extreme pain and cramping.
- Abnormalities of the nervous system, especially in the digestive tract may trigger unexpected pain and discomfort. If the brain cannot communicate well with your digestive system the intestines may overreact to cases of gas or bloating resulting in pain, diarrhea or constipation.
- Intestinal inflammation as a result of a high number of immune system cells collected in the intestines.
- Infection of the intestines can develop as a result of bacterial or virus building up inside the digestive tract.
- Bacterial changes in the digestive system. Everybody has a host of bacteria (called microflora) that helps in the digestive system. However, these bacteria must be kept at a healthy balance. Too much or too little in the system can trigger a painful reaction.
Much of these symptoms can lay dormant in your digestive tract for months at a time and will only reawaken when something happens. Every person has a different trigger that starts the round of symptoms.
These triggers could include any number of things including:
- Food allergies: A person may have an intolerance or an allergy to certain foods that could trigger the symptoms. These allergies are not the cause of the IBS but the body’s sensitivity to them could be the very thing that triggers the symptoms.
- Stress: It appears that IBS flare ups occur more often in people when under stress.
- Hormones: Research shows that women are more likely to suffer from IBS than men, which has led many to believe that hormones may play a role in triggering the symptoms.
While IBS affects all sorts of people, studies have shown that certain people are more prone to have flare ups than others. You are more likely to suffer from IBS if you are…
- – Under 50
- – Female
- – Have undergone hormone replacement therapy after menopause
- – Have a relative who also has IBS
- – Also suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, or other mental health issues
- – A person who has a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse in your past.
No one really knows how these things relate to IBS, however. After many research studies were conducted it was determined that these were common factors that were shared by most people who suffer from IBS.
What to Do About It?
Coping with IBS is not easy and there is little that can be done to stop the symptoms once they start. Therefore the key to managing the condition is prevention. Now that we understand what the risk factors and triggers are, managing them can just be a matter of adjusting your lifestyle to avoid the triggers.
With stress as one of the key factors that trigger the symptoms one might consider counseling to teach you how to manage your reaction to stress. Biofeedback, the practice of using electrical sensors to keep you aware of how your body is functioning can give you valuable insight on how your body responds to certain stimuli. Other techniques could be relaxation exercises or mindfulness training.
If the trigger is an intolerance or food allergy, then an adjustment in diet may be needed. Whatever the case, the more you understand the irritable bowel syndrome signs, symptoms and treatments the better prepared you’ll be to reduce the number of flare ups you have to endure.