Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • February 13, 2021

48-year-old Mrs. Kumar was nervous about going to the bank alone, but now with Mr. Kumar’s passing away, she had nobody to accompany her. As she was about to step out of home, she suddenly felt an ache in her stomach and knew she had to use the toilet once although she had visited the washroom just minutes back. This was not new to her and any stress brought on this reaction quite frequently now. She knew it was time to consult a doctor. The doctor on examining her and listening to the symptoms diagnosed it was IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome which was quite common and could be easily managed. When acidity, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea become chronic, and recur without a reason, along with mild to intense abdominal pain, the cause may be Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, a condition usually related to poor lifestyle habits, adversely affecting the large intestine.

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects the digestive system of a person which includes the large intestine, leading to a constant feeling of stomach pain, constipation, bloating, diarrhoea etc. The given condition cannot be reversed but can certainly be managed with medications, dietary and lifestyle changes.

Symptoms to know about

Irritable Bowel Syndrome often does not have too many symptoms, and thus many are not aware of its existence. However spicy/untimely meals, stress, smoking, consuming alcohol can aggravate the discomfort caused by IBS and may need immediate attention. Some common symptoms of IBS are:

  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Feeling Bloated
  • Gas formation in the stomach
  • Urge to pass stool often especially during stress
  • Experiencing bouts of diarrhoea alternating with constipation
  • Mucus in stool

When to seek a doctor’s attention?

You may need to visit a doctor if changes in bowel habits continue or the symptoms become severe and persistent. An appointment with the doctor is urgently required if you experience these symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea, especially at night
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Anaemia
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Constant pain in the stomach

What causes IBS?

The actual cause of IBS is not completely known yet, but some factors are believed to trigger this condition. These include:

  • Abnormalities in the digestive system nerves – Any deformity or irregularity in the nerves of your digestive system can lead to poor coordination of signals between the intestine and brain, which makes your body overreact to normal changes occurring during digestion. This leads to discomfort
  • Intestinal muscular contractions – The movement of food in your intestine largely depends on the muscle contractions lining the walls of the intestine. While strong contractions can sometimes lead to gas formation and diarrhoea, weak contractions slow down food passage leading to constipation.
  • Increase in intestinal immune cells – Some people may experience increased immune cells in the intestines leading to inflammation and resulting in diarrhoea and pain.
  • Severe infection – Bacterial growth and infection may aggravate symptoms of IBS
  • Changes in abdominal bacteria – Changes occurring in the bacteria present in the stomach of people with IBS can trigger the symptoms.

Common triggers that aggravate IBS

Food intolerance and allergy – Dairy & milk products, wheat, citrus fruits, cabbage, beans, and aerated beverages are some foods that may have adverse reactions in those suffering from IBS.

Excessive stress – Stress does not cause IBS but may worsen the symptoms

Hormonal changes – Reports show women have greater chances of getting IBS. During menstruation, hormonal changes can aggravate the symptoms of this disease.

Risk factors

  • Gender: Women, particularly those on oestrogen therapy, are prone to IBS
  • Age: IBS is more commonly seen in people above age 50. Since this does not go away with age, lifelong management is required.
  • Genetic factors: A genetic trigger or a family history could put you at risk of IBS
  • Mental health problems: Depression and anxiety are among the common triggers of IBS. People with a history of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are more likely to develop IBS.

IBS often leads to some health complications, which may not be fatal but can affect a person’s quality of life. Chronic diarrhoea or constipation may cause haemorrhoids.

Prevention and management of IBS

Since the exact cause for the onset of IBS is not known, preventing the condition is often difficult. However, with some precautionary steps and lifestyle modifications, the condition can be managed and its symptoms well-controlled.

  • Diet change: Avoid eating fried foods and instead focus on consuming more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Regulate the consumption of certain carbohydrates that include sweeteners, fruits, milk, and whole wheat because these may be hard to digest. A dietician may thus be recommended.
  • Meditation: Keeping stress away can to some extent help to keep a check on IBS.
  • Counselling: Consultation with a psychiatrist, in some cases, maybe needed if you are to continue with medications for some long-term disease
  • Exercise: Obesity could be a major aggravator for IBS, hence exercising to keep your body weight in check is extremely important to stay fit

Diagnosis & Treatment

The doctor may advise you to go for a few tests, which may include endoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, a CT scan or an X-ray or a CT scan. Certain stool and blood tests may also help to find intolerance and any other indicators.

IBS treatment usually comprises therapy, lifestyle recommendations, and medications to cope with its symptoms. To know more you can consult our expert gastroenterologists at Bhagwan Mahavir Medica or call 7033093330

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