Irritable Bowel Syndrome- Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS is a combination of abdominal discomforts along with troubled bowel habits. These include both constipation which is characterized by passing stools either three or less than three times a week; or diarrhea which includes passing excessive watery stools. Both the scenarios are at extreme ends of normal bowel habits of a person.

IBS cannot lead to very serious or fatal diseases like colon cancer or Crohn’s Disease. It could just lead to various other disruptions in normal life cycle. Those with the problem of Irritable Bowel System tend to miss work or school more often than others. It also leads to abdominal discomforts. Chronic Constipation especially could lead to various other digestive problems.

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

1. Muscle Contractions in the Intestine:

The walls of the intestine are lined with layers of muscle. These muscle contract as the food moves through the digestive tract. If the contractions are stronger and last longer than normal, they can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. If the contractions are weak, it can slow the process of food passage and lead to hard, dry stools.

2. Nervous System:

Abnormalities in the nerves of your digestive system can lead to causing more discomfort when the abdomen stretches due to gas or stool. If the coordination between the brain and intestine is poor, the body may overact and this may thereby result in pain, constipation and diarrhea.

3. Intestinal Inflammation:

Some people with IBS have an increased number of immune-system cells in their intestines. This immune-system response is associated with pain and diarrhea.

4. Severe Infection:

Contracting severe infection caused due to bacteria or virus can lead to diarrhea. If there is a surplus of bacteria in the intestine, leading to bacterial overgrowth, it can also result in IBS.

5. Changes in the Bacteria in the gut (microflora):

Microflora are the “good” bacteria that reside in the intestines and play a key role in health. As per research, people with IBS might differ from microflora in healthy people.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel System:

The signs and symptoms of IBS vary. The most common include:

1. Abdominal Cramps:

The abdominal pain, cramps and bloating become common while suffering from IBS. This condition is relieved by partially by passing a bowel movement.

2. Excess Gas:

Formation of excessive gas inside your system can indicate irritable bowel syndrome.

3. Diarrhea and Constipation:

Diarrhea is a condition in which the person passes stools of fluid consistency. These stools drain the water and essential minerals from your body and pass more than once in a single day. Whereas constipation is the exact opposite of diarrhea. The stools passed are less than three in a week, they are mostly hard and cause difficulty in the rectum while passing. Both these conditions indicate the problem of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

4. Mucus in the Stool:

If your stool examination in a laboratory suggests presence of mucus in your stools, it is a potential symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This can only be examined by a pathological test made in a laboratory.

These symptoms may some times aggravate for a person or also are absolutely not there. The symptom and their occurrence may both vary from person to person and the diet they follow.

Pain due to Irritable Bowel System:

  • IBS usually leads to pain and cramps in the abdomen. This pain may subside after passing of stools.
  • The pain also depends on how often you have bowel movements
  • The consistency, color, and the type of stools that are passed may also change.

Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

The doctor can diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome based on the symptoms that you may indicate to him. They may also take one or more of the following steps to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms:

  • The commencement of a certain kind of diet or cutting down on some food items for some period to rule out the problem of allergies from food.
  • Have an examination of the sample of your stool
  • Have a blood test conducted to rule out anemia
  • perform a colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is suggested if the doctor doubts that you may have Crohn’s disease, colitis or cancer.

Triggers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

1. Food Habits:

There are many people who have food allergies. The allergies have not exactly been recognized as the cause of IBS. Having said that, most people have reported Irritable Bowel Syndrome problems on consuming a few foods and also drinking some kinds of beverages. These foods may include wheat, milk and milk products, citrus foods, beans, cabbage, etc.

2. Stress:

The incidences of Irritable Bowel Syndrome has aggravated for most people due to stress. It is not a cause of IBS but it certainly may cause it to become worse.

3. Hormones:

Hormonal imbalance in women may cause more instances of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This problem thus targets more of the women population than men. Many women find that signs and symptoms are worse during or around their menstrual periods.

Risk Factors for Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

1. Young Age: 

IBS strikes people below the age of 50 years more often.

2. Gender:

More women than men have reported the case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This may be due to hormonal actions that occur in a woman’s body.

3. The Role of Genes:

Most people who have a problem of IBS can trace down the same problem to a someone in their family. IBS could thus be carried on in your genes and a family history could definitely be a risk factor combined with other environmental factors.

4. Have a mental Health Problem:

Mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, stress could also result in IBS. A history of sexual, physical or emotional abuse also might be a risk factor.

Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

IBS is not such a major problem for the doctors to prescribe medications. The doctors may prescribe medications to ease off stomach aches and abdominal discomforts. Major changes in diet may also be suggested. In most cases, home remedies work wonders to treat the problem of IBS.

Home Remedies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

1. Regular Physical Activities:

One must be actively involved in regular physical activities. It is good for a healthy body and also cures the mind off any mental illnesses. It relieves stress and depression problems.

2. Cutting back on Caffeine:

Caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee may lead to worsening of IBS problems. It stimulates the intestines and is thus not good for consumption.

3. Eating Smaller Meals:

Eating less quantity of food at equal intervals gives the time to your body to digest the food. This enhances the metabolism relieves the pressure from your intestines.

4. Consuming Probiotics:

Probiotics are the good germs that help to keep your gut healthy. They make your intestine strong and enable good digestion.

5. Avoiding Spicy and Fried Foods:

Spicy food could trigger digestion problems and also could cause acidity. At the same time, oily food too is not recommended for someone suffering with IBS. Light food, less spices with low oil constitute the healthiest diet a person with IBS could eat.

When a problem like IBS can be easily treated by bringing about minor changes in your lifestyle and food habits, taking an overdose of medication may just damage your body further. Medicines are not miracles. They are a combination of chemicals which may provide temporary relief but an over intake of the medications may be detrimental to your health. Consult your doctor for best recommendations of food for a speedy recovery.

Shabnam Vandeliwala

Venturing into writing is my second most admired hobby after litigating in courts. An advocate by profession, writing gives me immense sense of satisfaction especially in the time that I'm free from other work.

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