Irritable bowel syndrome (or IBS) is a functional bowel disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating and alternation of bowel habits (diarrhea and then constipation) in the absence of known causative agent. IBS may begin after an infection or a stressful life event. Stomach boating and back pain are two of the most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
The main causative agent of IBS is not fully known. There are theories that state that the disorder is brought about by the interaction of the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. Abnormalities in the gut flora and immune system were also found to have relationship with IBS.
Conditions that may present as IBS are as follows: fructose malabsorption, celiac disease, parasitic infection (gardiasis), several inflammatory bowel diseases, functional chronic constipation, chronic functional abdominal pain and bile acid mal-absorption.
Symptoms of IBS are as follows: abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, changes in bowel habits, abdominal bloating, tenesmus or feeling of incomplete evacuation, gastroesophageal reflux, headache, backache, and even psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that about 60% of those who suffer IBM have anxiety and depression.
Currently, there is no known cure for IBS. However, there are interventions that can be done to relieve symptoms which include dietary modifications, medications and even psychological interventions.
Dietary modifications includes consumption of lactose free mild especially to those who manifest IBM after intake of lactose and soluble fiber supplementation which act as bulking agent for those who experiences frequent diarrhea. For those who experiences constipation, an increase in fiber intake could help out reduce episodes of constipation.
Medications may include stool softeners or laxatives (for constipation predominant IBS) and anti diarrheals ( for diarrhea-predominant IBS). Serotonin affecting drugs could actually help out by counteracting the activity of the intestine, serotonin has been found to stimulate the intestine thus for those with constipation, serotonin agonists could help them out while serotonin antagonists for those with diarrhea.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis were found effective in dealing with IBS. Cognitive behavioral therapy provides psychological coping strategies in dealing with thoughts and behaviors that increases symptoms of IBS by simply suppressing them. Hypnosis on the other hand has been found to improve wellbeing.
Even though IBS does not end up in serious complications, it still has some negative implications to sufferers. It is a source of chronic pain, fatigue and could contribute to work absenteeism. With such, it could dramatically decrease the quality of the sufferer’s life.
When symptoms of IBS have been observed, it is best to consult a professional advice and management. Self medication is not advised as this step could lead to a more complicated situation.