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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a mix of belly discomfort and trouble with bowel habits, either:

  • Going more or less often than normal (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Having different kinds of stool (soft, hard, or thin and liquid)

Doctors used to call IBS other names such as:

  • Spastic bowel
  • Nervous colon
  • Spastic colon
  • Mucous colitis
  • IBS colitis

There are four types of this condition:

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • Mixed IBS (IBS-M) alternates between constipation and diarrhea
  • Unsubtyped IBS (IBS-U) for people who don't fit into the above types

Irritable Bowel Syndrome isn’t a life-threatening condition. It also doesn’t make you more likely to get other colon conditions such as:

  • Colon cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

However, it can be a long-lasting problem that changes how you live your life. People with IBS may miss school or work more often and may feel less able to take part in daily activities. Some people may need to change their work setting; change hours, shifting to working at home, or even not working at all.


What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Possible causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include an overly sensitive immune system or colon. On the other hand, factors that appear to play a role include:

  • Muscle contractions in the intestine: Layers of muscle line the inside of your intestines, which contract as you digest food. A contraction that is stronger and lasts longer than normal can cause diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Weak contractions of the intestine can slow food passage and lead to hard, dry stools.
  • Severe infection: IBS can develop after a severe bout of diarrhea caused by a virus or bacteria. The condition might also be linked with a surplus of bacteria in the intestines.
  • Nervous system: You may experience abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive system that may cause discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the intestines and the brain can cause your body to overreact to changes that normally occur in the digestive process, resulting in diarrhea, constipation, or pain.
  • Changes in gut microbes: Changes in fungi, bacteria, and viruses, which usually reside in the intestines and play a key role in health. Research shows that the microbes in people with IBS might differ from those in healthy people.
  • Early life stress: People exposed to stressful events, especially in childhood, tend to have more symptoms of IBS.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The main symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain or cramps

Other symptoms of IBS that may occur include:

  • Not always being able to control when you poo (bowel incontinence)
  • Problems peeing, like needing to pee often, sudden urges to pee, and feeling like you cannot fully empty your bladder
  • Backache
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Tiredness and a lack of energy
  • Passing mucus from your bottom
  • Farting


Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Treatment of IBS focuses on relieving symptoms so that you can live as normally as possible. Mild signs and symptoms can often be controlled by managing stress and by making changes in your diet and lifestyle. Try to:

  • Eat high-fiber foods
  • Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get enough sleep

In addition, based on your symptoms your doctor might suggest medications such as:

  • Fiber supplements
  • Laxatives
  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • Anticholinergic medications
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • SSRI antidepressants
  • Pain medications

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