Do you think you have IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a disorder characterized most commonly by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer.

Most people can control their symptoms with diet, stress management, nutritional supplements and prescribed medications. For some people, however, Irritable bowel syndrome can be disabling. They may be unable to work, attend social events, or even travel short distances.

Irritable bowl syndrome affects more women than men. In this syndrome, the gastrointestinal tract is especially sensitive to many stimuli. Stress, diet, drugs, hormones or minor irritants may cause the tract to contract abnormally.

Normal motility, or movement, may not be present in the colon of a person who has IBS. It can be spasmodic or can even stop working temporarily. Spasms are sudden strong muscle contractions that come and go.

The colon, which is about 5 feet long, connects the small intestine to the rectum and anus. The major function of the colon is to absorb water, nutrients, and salts from the partially digested food that enters from the small intestine.

Two pints of liquid matter enter the colon from the small intestine each day. Stool volume is a third of a pint. The difference between the amount of fluid entering the colon from the small intestine and the amount of stool in the colon is what the colon absorbs each day.

Colon motility—the contraction of the colon muscles and the movement of its contents—is controlled by nerves, hormones, and impulses in the colon muscles. These contractions move the contents inside the colon toward the rectum.

During this passage, water and nutrients are absorbed into the body, and what is left over is stool. A few times each day contractions push the stool down the colon, resulting in a bowel movement.

However, if the muscles of the colon, and pelvis do not contract in the right way, the contents inside the colon do not move correctly, resulting in abdominal pain, cramps, constipation, a sense of incomplete stool movement, or diarrhea.

Stress and emotional conflict, depression and anxiety will make episodes of IBS worse. Some people with the syndrome seem to be more aware of their symptoms and can experience greater disability than others.

Stress—feeling mentally or emotionally tense, troubled, angry, or overwhelmed—can stimulate colon spasms in people with IBS. The colon has many nerves that connect it to the brain. Like the heart and the lungs, the colon is partly controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which responds to stress.

These nerves control the normal contractions of the colon and cause abdominal discomfort at stressful times. People often experience cramps or “butterflies” when they are nervous or upset.

In people with IBS, the colon can be overly responsive to even slight conflict or stress. Stress makes the mind more aware of the sensations that arise in the colon, making the person perceive these sensations as unpleasant. During an episode the contractions of the gastrointestinal tract become stronger and more frequent which leads to the rapid transit time of food through the small intestine resulting in Diarrhea.

Episodes occur when a person is a wake they rarely wake a person from sleep. For some, fatty foods or high calorie diets are to blame.

Some things that can irritate the situation are wheat, tea, coffee, citrus fruit

Two types of IBS

The first type is the spastic colon type which is commonly triggered by eating. Usually produces periodic constipation or diarrhea with pain. Sometimes constipation or diarrhea will alternate. Mucus often appears in the stool.

Pain may come in bouts of continuous dull aching or cramps usually over the lower abdomen.

The person may experience bloating, gas, nausea, headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety and difficulty concentrating. Have a bowel movement often relieves the pain. The second type mainly produces painless diarrhea or relatively painless constipation.

The diarrhea may begin very suddenly and with extreme urgency. This can occur soon after a meal although it can sometimes occur immediately upon awakening. The urgency can be so strong that the person loses control and can’t reach the bathroom in time.

Diarrhea during the night is rare. Some people have bloating and constipation with relatively little pain.

Ideas that help IBS

The treatment for Irritable Bowel differs from person to person. People who can identify particular foods or types of stress that bring on the problem should avoid them if possible.

For most people, especially those who tend to be constipated, regular physical activity helps keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning normally.

A normal diet is best. People with abdominal distention and increased gas (flatulence) should avoid beans, cabbage and other foods that cause gas.

A low fat diet helps some people.

People with irritable bowel and lactase deficient should stay away from dairy products.

Fiber can be beneficial especially if the problem is constipation. If stress seems to trigger your symptoms, the following may help you better manage stress and avoid or ease some IBS episodes:

1. Keep a diary or journal of your symptoms as well as life events that occur with them. This often helps clarify the connection between symptoms and stressful occasions. After you have identified certain events or situations that bring on symptoms, you can develop ways of dealing with these situations.

2. Get regular, vigorous exercise (such as swimming, jogging or brisk walking) to help reduce tension.

3. A hobby or an outside activity can provide a break from stressful situations.

4. Learn how to deal with your stress. Because there are no structural problems in the intestines of people who have IBS, you may think that these symptoms are all in your head. This is simply not true.

The pain discomfort, bloating are real and have many different causes that can be addressed to help relieve symptoms.

Psychological factors often play a role in the development of IBS. People who have IBS are more likely than people without the condition to have depression, panic disorder or other psychological conditions.

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