Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. The cause is not well understood.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is very common. In fact, 11% of the population suffers from IBS globally. Until recently, it was considered a diagnosis of exclusion (meaning you are given the diagnosis after all else has been ruled out) but that is no longer the case. IBS can be diagnosed through careful and thorough symptom assessment.
What are the causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS?
There are many factors that contribute to the development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, but to date, no clear cause has been identified. What we know is that stress, certain foods, and lifestyle habits can exacerbate the symptoms of IBS. What’s tricky, is that these factors vary from person to person, and so they require patience and detective work to identify triggers.
What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS?
The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS vary from person to person however there are some common patterns to watch out for.
Pain: One of the defining symptoms of IBS is pain. Pain can be experienced differently from person to person. For some, it can present as cramping, bloating, distension, a feeling of pressure, fullness, just to name a few. In the absence of pain, it’s probably not IBS.
Bowel Changes: IBS usually presents with altered bowel habits. Some experience constipation, others experience diarrhea and still others, will experience a combination of both.
How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS diagnosed?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS used to be a diagnosis of exclusion but now there are clear guidelines that help medical practitioners diagnose IBS.
THE ROME IV CRITERIA for the diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS
According to the ROME criteria, the diagnosis of IBS is characterized by recurrent abdominal pain for, on average, at least one day per week in the past three months. The pain is also associated with two or more of the following:
- Symptoms related to defecation
- Symptoms associated with a change in stool frequency
- Symptoms associated with a change in stool form or appearance, based on the Bristol Stool Form Scale
The symptoms of IBS can vary in intensity. There may be periods of time when your symptoms are mild or non – existent and other times when the symptoms you experience are severe in nature.
What can you do to MANAGE your Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS
There are many different treatments available that can help with management of IBS.
Lifestyle: Manage your stress. There is a clear correlation between your stress levels and the severity of IBS symptoms. Depression and anxiety can also make IBS symptoms worse. Interventions like gut directed hypnotherapy have been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of IBS symptoms.
Diet: The only diet that’s been shown to help IBS is the Low FODMAP diet. The Low FODMAP diet is best done under supervision as it is a short-term, treatment-based diet that needs to be done correctly to be effective. This diet is not meant to be a long-term solution to IBS as it omits important prebiotic fibres and nutrients essential for our microbiome and overall good health.
Treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS
There are several treatments available including over the counter medications and prescription medications that, when used under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care practitioner, can be an effective way to manage your symptoms. These treatments need to be personalized and monitored to be effective
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