Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome is not technically a disease. It is termed a syndrome because it consists of a group of symptoms. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be quite different in different people. For instance, one person might suffer from bouts of diarrhea while constipation may be a symptom in another person. The condition is a state in which your bowels do not function properly. The malfunctioning of the bowels is what produces the symptoms in the sufferer.
What are the signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?
There are common signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome:
- Abdominal pain – People with irritable bowel syndrome often experience mild to severe abdominal pain. The abdominal pain can be triggered by stress or eating certain foods. The pain may be relieved as soon as the person defecates.
- Sudden change in bowel frequency – This can manifest as either an increase or decrease in bowel frequency.
- Belching- Belching or burping is expelling digestive tract gas through the mouth. This is usually caused by a distended stomach due to swallowed air. The swallowed air will cause abdominal discomfort, which is relieved through belching. Most patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome often experience abdominal bloating which can cause aggravation of air in the stomach.
- Bloating and distension of the abdomen- Bloating is the subjective feeling that the stomach is enlarged. Distention on the other hand is actual enlargement of the abdomen. Besides the bacteria that produce intestinal gas, bloating and distention can also be caused by physical obstruction. This may be due to scarring of the pylorus which can obstruct the complete emptying of the small intestine as the digested food passes through it towards the colon, and distension results.
- Flatulence- flatulence is gas passing through the anus. The gas is either caused by intestinal bacteria that thrive in the colon or swallowed air. Swallowed air rarely causes flatulence. Intestinal bacteria produce gas during digestion of food that was not properly digested in the small intestine. The three most commonly maldigested sugars are sorbitol (common sweetener for low calorie foods), lactose (sugar found in milk and dairy products) and fructose (sugar from fruits that is normally used as sweetener for drinks and candies).
Here are the different classifications of irritable bowel syndrome and their symptoms:
1) Irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) – This type of irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by:
a) Urgency in defecating – People suffering from this type of irritable bowel syndrome often need to hurry when they have to defecate. This can be very inconvenient if a person is working or doing leisure activities without immediate access to a bathroom.
b) Wet/loose stool – The stool contains an abnormal amount of water.
c) Abnormal bowel frequency – A person suffering from IBS-D has to move his or her bowels more than 3 times a day. This can cause dehydration due to the water lost through the stool.
2) Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) – This type of irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by:
a) Straining to defecate – Straining the defecate may cause abdominal pain and be caused by hardening of the stool.
b) Hard/ lumpy stool – Having hard, dry or lumpy stool is a common sign and symptom of having irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. This can be caused by the stool not containing enough water to soften it.
c) Abnormal bowel frequency – A person suffering from IBS-C is often unable to defecate more than 3 times a week. This low frequency of defecation can be dangerous as toxins may build up in the digestive tract.
3) Irritable bowel syndrome alternating (IBS-A) – This is characterized by alternating signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
What are the treatment options?
1) Alternative therapies – Studies have shown that stress and psychology has a great effect on the symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome. Alternative therapies consists of various treatments not included in western medicine.
a) Acupuncture – Some sufferers report that acupuncture is effective. How does acupuncture work as an irritable bowel syndrome treatment? Acupuncture is said to release blockages in a person’s Qi or life force. This is done through placing needles in various points of the body. Sufferers report acupuncture alleviates the pain of IBS symptoms.
b) Yoga – Since stress has a large impact on the symptoms of IBS many people turn to yoga to help eliminate stress from their lives. Although yoga treats no specific aspects of irritable bowel syndrome, it can be a relief from stress that can cause IBS symptoms.
c) Herbal – Herbal treatments can help alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Consulting an herbalist can be helpful in finding the herbs that are effective in treating various symptoms. There many online sources that also have information on natural herbal remedies.
2) Medical – People who have Irritable bowel syndrome often turn to doctors for help. There are two main types of medical irritable bowel syndrome treatments:
a) Drugs – There are prescription medications to help with the symptoms of IBS. Some drugs are used to alleviate pain. Other drugs may be used to stabilize the digestive process. If depression is present and causing stress medication may be prescribed to treat that as well. People may need to take a combination of drugs as part of their treatment.
b) Psychology – Many agree that counseling may be needed as well. The stress from constant worry due to the symptoms can precipitate the symptoms in a vicious cycle. Psychological counseling can be effective in decreasing stress and preventing depression.
Let us know your thoughts or story dealing with IBS in the comments below.