What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system.
• It causes symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. These tend to come and go over time, and can last for days, weeks or months at a time.
• It’s usually a lifelong problem. It can be very frustrating to live with and can have a big impact on your everyday life.
• diet changes and medicines can often help control the symptoms.
• The exact cause is unknown – it’s been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress and a family history of IBS.
The main symptoms are:
• stomach pain or cramps – usually worse after eating and better after doing a poo
• bloating – your abdomen may feel uncomfortably full and swollen
• diarrhea – you may have watery poo and sometimes need to poo suddenly
• constipation – you may strain when pooing and feel like you cannot empty your bowels fully
IBS can also cause:
• farting (flatulence)
• passing mucus from your bottom
• tiredness and a lack of energy
• feeling sick (nausea)
• problems peeing – like needing to pee often, sudden urges to pee, and feeling like you cannot fully empty your bladder
• not always being able to control when you poo (incontinence)
Tests for IBS
There’s no test for IBS, but you might need some tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
The doctor may arrange:
• a blood test to check for problems like colic disease
• tests on a sample of your poo to check for infections and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
You will not usually need further tests in hospital unless the doctor is not sure what the problem is.
a person with IBS avoids triggers, makes dietary adjustments, and follows their doctor’s advice, they can significantly reduce the risk of flares and discomfort.
Treatment options for IBS aim to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Dietary steps that can help a person reduce the risk of a flare include:
• Managing fiber intake: Some people with IBS need to increase their fiber intake, while others should consume less. A balanced level of fiber in the diet can help promote healthful digestion.
• Probiotic supplements: Taking probiotics may help some people. These are beneficial bacteria that support gut health. A person may not feel their effects immediately, so they should take them over a few weeks to gauge their impact on gut health over a more extended period.
• Food diary: Keeping a record of specific foods in the diet and their physical effects will help a person identify primary trigger foods.
Changes in eating habits can help control symptoms. No IBS diet works for every person. Therefore, an individual may need to go through a process of trial and error to find a consistent, comfortable diet.
The following medications may help treatment of IBS :
• Antispasmodic medications: These reduce abdominal cramping and pain by relaxing the muscles in the gut.
• Bulk-forming laxatives: These can help a person relieve constipation. People should use them with caution.
• Antimotility medications: These can reduce diarrhea symptoms. Options include loperamide, which slows down the contractions of the intestinal muscles.
• Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): These often help to reduce abdominal pain and cramping.
Medications specific to IBS treatment include:
• alosetron (Lotronex) for severe diarrhea-predominant IBS in females
• lubiprostone (Amitiza) for constipation-predominant IBS in females
• rifaximin, an antibiotic that can help reduce diarrhea in people with IBS
These are usually the last line of treatment when other lifestyle or therapeutic interventions have failed, and symptoms remain severe.
Common dietary triggers of cramping or bloating include foods that cause , such as:
• Brussels sprouts
Other foods that can trigger flares include:
• dairy products
• sugar free gum
• some candies
• products with caffeine in them, which may be due to sugar, sorbitol, or caffeine intolerance rather than IBS
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