IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a disorder in which a person experiences chronic, recurrent bowel problems and abdominal pain. Bowel problems may include change in bowel habits, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, excessive gas, urgent need to defecate, inability to empty bowels, loss of appetite, pain or a combination of these.
If you have IBS you are not alone - it's estimated that between 9-23% of the global population is affected by IBS; over 30 million people in the United States have this condition (10% to 15% of the US population).
A person with IBS will experience intestinal discomfort on a daily basis. However, the frequency and severity of IBS symptoms are not predictable and can vary. If IBS is not managed, this disorder can be disruptive to all aspects of a person's life. IBS can affect a person physically and emotionally interfering with education, work and personal relationships.
While the cause of IBS is not known, it is thought that the symptoms of IBS are brought on by a disruption to the interaction between brain, nervous system and gut. Many people believe that stress is a cause of IBS; however, this is not the case although stress can make the symptoms of IBS worse or trigger them.
Treatment of IBS focuses on relieving symptoms so that you can live life 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:
- Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms
- Eat high-fiber foods
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Your doctor might suggest that you eliminate from your diet such as:
o High-gas foods like carbonated and alcoholic beverages.
o Artificial sweeteners
o Gluten - some people with IBS report improvement in diarrhea symptoms if they stop eating gluten (wheat, barley and rye) even if they don't have celiac disease.
o FODMAPs. Some people are sensitive to certain carbohydrates such as fructose, fructans, lactose and others, known as FODMAPs -- fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are found in certain grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products.
In many cases, people with IBS do not seek help or even discuss it with other people. The word 'bowel' can bring negative or even embarrassing connotations However, you should see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or other signs or symptoms of IBS (rectal bleeding, weight loss, persistent diarrhea, anemia, unexplained vomiting, difficulty swallowing, persistent pain not relieve by passing gas or a bowel movement) in order to rule out a more serious condition.
If your symptoms do not improve through home lifestyle or dietary changes, your doctor may also suggest the use of medications to help lessen your symptoms. While there is not yet a known cure for IBS, there are many treatment options to reduce or eliminate symptoms. Good communication with a doctor is important to help manage this condition
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