Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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What is IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be best categorized as a group of chronic symptoms that occur within the digestive system. These symptoms can result from irritation in the stomach, large intestine, or other parts of the digestive tract. IBS symptoms usually occur in response to consuming certain foods, stress, or other life issues. IBS is a condition that needs to be managed on a long-term basis.

At GI Alliance, our gastroenterologists are trained to treat irritable bowel syndrome, and routinely help patients manage their condition and symptoms. For help with IBS, please contact a GI Alliance location in your community.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

There are several IBS symptoms that may occur, which can vary greatly from person to person. Ultimately, it depends on how your body responds to the food you eat or the stress you experience.

IBS symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Excess gas
  • Constipation
  • Mucus in stool
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea

It is important to contact your doctor if you have blood in your stool, unexplained vomiting, or persistent stomach pain that spreads to your back. Severe symptoms could indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. Contact a GI Alliance gastroenterologist today if you have any combination of the above symptoms.

What causes irritable bowel syndrome?

IBS is sometimes referred to as “the brain-gut disorder.” The brain controls and regulates the functionality of the digestive system. In theory, that regulation is interrupted or impaired, which causes the digestive system to behave abnormally.

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is still unknown. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax as they move food from the stomach, through the intestinal tract, and to the rectum. People with IBS appear to have a disturbance in the interaction between the brain, the autonomic nervous system, and the musculature of the gut, resulting in too much or too little motility.

The main triggers of IBS are:

  • Stress
  • Foods high in fat
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Infection
  • Hormones (Women are much more likely to have IBS, and symptoms are often worse around menstrual periods.)

How is IBS treated?

A consultation with a GI Alliance gastrointestinal specialist can help determine the ideal treatment options for irritable bowel syndrome. There are several lifestyle changes that you can make to help prevent and manage the symptoms of IBS and enhance your quality of life. Some of those lifestyle changes include:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating food high in fiber
  • Avoiding foods that trigger symptoms
  • Getting plenty of sleep

Medications may also help to relieve symptoms and potentially treat some of the underlying issues associated with IBS. Medications used to treat IBS include:

  • Anticholinergic medications
  • Laxatives
  • Fiber supplements
  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Pain management medication
  • Anti-nausea medication

Clinical trials and research are constantly being conducted to discover better solutions and treatments for irritable bowel syndrome. It is also a good idea to keep a diary of your symptoms, diet, and stress level to help you understand what factors trigger symptoms for you.

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How common is IBS?

IBS affects both adults and children, although it most commonly arises in individuals prior to turning 40. IBS occurs in about 10 – 15% of individuals in the United States.

Is there a cure for irritable bowel syndrome?

IBS cannot be cured; however, it may get better with diet and lifestyle adjustments. Our providers are available to work with you to keep irritable bowel syndrome at bay.

Is IBS preventable?

The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known at this time, meaning there is no known way to avoid it. However, we know tried and true methods to manage symptoms. This can include changes to your current lifestyle and medications, as well as adding in vitamin supplements. Cutting out foods and certain beverages that trigger IBS may help minimize flare-ups.

Is it possible to soothe an IBS flare-up?

There are a few ways you can minimize symptoms if you’re going through an IBS flare-up:

  • Use some form of heat on your lower stomach area for about 15 minutes
  • Go for a walk or move
  • Eat light meals and reduce consuming foods that could disturb you stomach
  • Sip noncaffeinated teas, like peppermint tea, ginger tea, and a lavender tea
  • Minimize things that cause you stress

Get help for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome can cause an array of gastrointestinal symptoms, but it does not have to control your life. The board-certified gastroenterologists at GI Alliance offer the specialized care needed to diagnose and help manage the condition. To learn more about IBS symptoms, causes, or treatments, please contact a GI Alliance office near you.

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