Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the stomach and intestines, which is also called the gastrointestinal tract. A chronic digestive problem, the signs and symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain and bloating with constipation or diarrhoea. IBS doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue nor does it increase your risk of colon cancer. IBS is more common in women than men. Irritable bowel syndrome treatments need a personalized method as there is no one common treatment for all. Dietary and lifestyle changes as well as medication and probiotics and irritable bowel syndrome therapies usually help manage IBS. A gastroenterologist would find a solution to relieve IBS symptoms and treatment.
What Causes IBS?
While the exact irritable bowel syndrome causes remain unknown, some factors seem to play a role…
Unusual muscle contractions in the intestine – The intestines are lined with muscles that contract as food moves through the digestive tract. If these contractions are stronger and last longer than usual, they can cause gas, bloating and diarrhoea. If the contractions are weak, the passage of food slows down and can result in hard, dry stools.
Nervous system issues – If there are issues with the nerves in the digestive system, it may cause discomfort when the abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Un-coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines may cause the body to overreact to changes that usually occur in the digestive process. This could result in pain, diarrhea or constipation.
Infection – A bad bout of diarrhoea caused by a bacteria or virus can be among the irritable bowel syndrome causes. This is called gastroenteritis. An excess of bacterial growth in the intestines is also linked to IBS.
Childhood stress – IBS symptoms tend to be seen in people who were exposed to stressful events in their early life, especially in childhood.
Gut microbe changes – IBS can occur due to changes in bacteria, fungi and viruses, which usually reside in the intestines. These play a key role in maintaining health. Microbes in people with IBS are seen to differ from those in people who don’t have IBS.
IBS symptoms are often triggered by certain types of foods, stress, lack of rest and hormonal changes.
What Are the Symptoms of IBS?
There are four types of IBS: IBS with constipation (IBS-Constipation), IBS with diarrhoea (IBS Diarrhoea), IBS with a mix of constipation and diarrhoea (IBS-Mixed), and IBS that doesn’t fit into any of these categories (IBS-Unclassified). The type of IBS that a person has depends entirely on their symptoms.
Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can vary from person to person. However, there are some common signs and symptoms. These include:
- Diarrhoea, constipation, or alternating periods of diarrhoea and constipation
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Bloating, which is worse after a meal and reduces after going to the toilet and passing bowel movements
- Stools that are harder or looser than usual
- A bloated belly
- Mucus in the stool
Severe signs and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms could indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. It is recommended that you consult a doctor in case of weight loss, diarrhoea at night, rectal bleeding, iron deficiency anemia, unexplained vomiting, difficulty swallowing and persistent pain that doesn’t reduce even after passing gas or a bowel movement
How Does It Feel to Have IBS?
IBS is not a life-threatening condition. However, many people worry that they may be out of action due to irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Some fear that the pain might be so bad that they cannot leave the house. Others may worry about sudden and constant occurrences of diarrhoea. It is important to understand that you are not alone nor are you defined by your condition. Stress can make IBS symptoms worse. Do seek professional help if your symptoms are severe and disrupt your lifestyle. Proper guidance and management of IBS will help control it and enable you to lead a healthy lifestyle.
How is IBS Treated?
Coming to irritable bowel syndrome treatments, a gastroenterologist will consider your medical history, risk factors and symptoms to make a diagnosis. Blood tests, stool tests or an endoscopy might also be performed. The doctor might also check for accompanying conditions such as anxiety, depression or migraine or recommend a psychological assessment. It is recommended that you be aware of foods to avoid with IBS. Keep a diary of the foods you eat and share the information with the doctor to rule out food intolerance or allergies.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ irritable bowel syndrome treatment. Managing IBS requires a customized approach, tailored to each person. After confirming the diagnosis, the doctor will map out a personalized treatment plan according to your particular triggers, such as specific foods or stress. Specific medicines might also be prescribed. The doctor might schedule regular appointments to track your progress and to make further changes to manage your IBS symptoms and treatment.
Some of the dietary and lifestyle changes that might be recommended are:
- Eating smaller meals
- Sticking to regular mealtimes
- Reducing caffeine intake
- Avoiding dairy products
- Consuming probiotics
- Minimizing stress
- Including more exercise in your life
Will Alternative Therapies Help My IBS?
Alternative irritable bowel syndrome therapies are growing in popularity to treat IBS. Before starting on an alternative treatment, you should check with your doctor to ensure that your irritable bowel syndrome therapies do not interfere with your current medical management.
Alternative therapies to help IBS include…
- Probiotics and prebiotics
- Relaxation response training and meditation
- Herbal remedies – These include chamomile tea, peppermint oil, flaxseed oil, aloe vera juice, etc.
- Acupuncture – This treatment is believed to stimulate the nerves at key acupuncture points in the body. This causes the body to release special hormones that can alleviate pain.
What Foods Should I Avoid in IBS?
Foods that trigger IBS differ from individual to individual. Hence, it is important to make note of your own experiences with foods that do not suit you. That said, certain foods commonly trigger IBS and should not be included in an IBS treatment diet. Foods to avoid with IBS which should not be part of the IBS treatment diet include:
- Oily foods (Reason: Their high fat content)
- Caffeine (Reason: It has a stimulating effect on the intestines)
- Processed foods (Reason: High number of additives and preservatives)
- Dairy products (Reason: Many adults are lactose intolerant)
- Cabbage, beans, onions and legumes (Reason: These foods increase bloating and flatulence)
- Gluten (Reason: Some people with IBS are gluten-intolerant)
As IBS triggers vary from person to person, IBS symptoms and treatment can be a challenge. The response to medicines also differs from individual to individual. However, it is important to know that IBS is not a life sentence. The symptoms of IBS can be successfully controlled with correct diagnosis and a personalised treatment plan. A gastroenterologist will find an effective solution to your problems. A range of alternative therapies would also enable you to live a normal life free of IBS symptoms.
The Tummy Clinic – Canadian Virtual IBS Treatment Clinic
The Tummy Clinic is a leading healthcare provider that offers virtual services to treat irritable bowel syndrome in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary. With a team of experienced gastroenterologists, naturopathic doctors and dieticians, The Tummy Clinic is committed to providing high-quality care and personalized treatment options for patients dealing with a variety of gastrointestinal issues. Whether you’re experiencing chronic abdominal pain, heartburn, or other digestive problems, our staff can help treat IBS using the latest medical techniques and treatments. If you’re looking for compassionate care and effective solutions for your tummy troubles, consider booking a free discovery call today.