Irritable bowel syndrome, also called IBS, is a common health disorder that affects your large intestines. To be diagnosed, a person must have abdominal pain for six or more months as well as other symptoms, including pain relief after a bowel movement and a change in the frequency and/or consistency of bowel movements.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, approximately 12 percent of Americans have IBS. People with irritable bowel syndrome often have other health conditions. These can include:
Three different types of IBS may be diagnosed based on the change in your bowel movements, both in frequency and consistency. It is important for your physician to know the type since some medications may make some types of IBS worse.
Your doctor can diagnose you with IBS even when your bowel movement patterns do not fit exclusively within one type or another. Additionally, some people have normal days interspersed with abnormal bowel movements on other days. The type of IBS will depend on the type of abnormal bowel movements you’re having, which can include:
IBS with constipation: In this case, most of your bowel movements are hard and lumpy. They will be accompanied by abdominal pain.
IBS with diarrhea: Most stools will be loose and watery.
IBS with mixed bowel habits: You may experience bowel movements that are hard and lumpy at one part of the day and loose and watery on another part of the same day.
The abdominal pain and discomfort may come from colon muscles that tend to contract more in people who have IBS. This causes cramps in individuals who have a lower pain tolerance. Irritable bowel syndrome may also be called irritable colon, spastic colon, irritable bowel, or nervous stomach.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can happen to multiple family members, and women are twice as likely as men to get the condition. People who have a family history of IBS, food intolerance, history of physical or sexual abuse, and history of a severe digestive tract infection are at higher risk for diagnosis. Common symptoms of IBS include:
Your physician will differentiate between IBS, which only involves symptoms in the colon, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a group of digestive diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This is necessary to determine the best treatment possible for your situation.
Several functional approaches may be used to treat IBS, including dietary changes, lifestyle changes, and specific medications. Dietary changes that will be recommended will not only help your IBS symptoms but also improve your overall health.
For example, you may find that reducing or eliminating certain foods can help reduce your symptoms. These might include wheat, dairy products, beans, and cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower or Brussels sprouts.
Dietary probiotics can help restore beneficial bacteria to your gut. Lifestyle changes that have been effective include identifying and using stress relief strategies, exercise, and ensuring at least four hours between meals and snacks.
There are several medications that your physician may try, especially when you don’t respond well to dietary and lifestyle changes. Your physician will also discuss with you how to increase fiber in your diet, ensure that you are well hydrated, and counsel you to avoid caffeine from coffee, chocolate, tea, and soda. When diet, lifestyle changes, and approved medications are unsuccessful, your physician may ask you to consider a clinical trial.
These are medical research trials that involve individuals with IBS. Volunteering allows you access to new medications and treatment protocols before they’re available to the public. Currently, there are clinical trials involving colon microbiome, common neurological factors, and individuals who develop IBS after having an acute gastrointestinal infection.
If you have symptoms of IBS or have been diagnosed with IBS, you deserve treatment protocols customized to your unique situation. The New York gastroenterological specialists at GastroCare LI can help. Contact us today at or online to schedule your first appointment and begin the process of finding relief for your gastrointestinal issues.