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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Best Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment at Fortis Hospital Mumbai

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition of the digestive system. Primary symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits (eg, constipation and/or diarrhea).

It is the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal condition though only 15% of affected indiviuals actually seek medical help.

The chronic nature of IBS and the challenge of controlling its symptoms can be frustrating but IBS is not life threatening and does not lead to serious consequences like colon cancer.

The cause of IBS remains unclear. Some of the popular theories include :

  1. Gut hypersensitivity
  2. Change in gut microbiota
  3. Early life stress
  4. Altered gut brain axis
  5. Some people develop IBS after a severe gastrointestinal infection (eg, Salmonella or Campylobacter, or viruses). However, it is not clear how the infection triggers IBS to develop, and most people with IBS do not have a history of these infections. Anxiety and stress worsen symptoms. However, stress or anxiety is probably not the underlying cause. 
  6. Food intolerances are common in patients with IBS, raising the possibility that it is caused by food sensitivity or allergy. 
  7. A number of foods are known to cause symptoms that mimic or aggravate IBS, including dairy products (which contain lactose), legumes (such as beans), and cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage). These foods increase intestinal gas, which can cause cramps. Several medications also have effects on the intestines that may contribute to symptoms.
  8. The most common symptom of IBS is abdominal pain in association with changes in bowel habits (diarrhea and/or constipation).
  9.  If diarrhea is the more common pattern, the condition is called "diarrhea-predominant" IBS; if constipation is more common, the condition is called "constipation-predominant" IBS.
  10. Other symptoms of IBS include bloating, gas, and belching.
  11. Several different intestinal disorders have symptoms that are similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). malabsorption , inflammatory bowel disease , celiac disease, and microscopic colitis.
  12. There is no specific test to diagnose IBS,  But your doctor can figure out if you have IBS by asking you a few questions, and by running tests to make sure you do not have something other than IBS. Lots of medical conditions can cause the same symptoms as IBS. So it is important that your doctor checks the other possibilities.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatments

There is no curative or definite treatment for IBS. Treatment of IBS usually is time consuming and consists of medication given to ease symptoms like abdominal pain , diarrhoea or constipation. 

Monitor symptoms — The first step in treating IBS is usually to monitor your symptoms, daily bowel habits, and any other factors that may affect your bowels. This can help to identify factors that worsen symptoms in some people with IBS, such as lactose or other food intolerances and stress.

Diet changes —  It is reasonable to try eliminating foods that may aggravate IBS, although it's best to talk to your health care provider before you make significant changes to your diet. Eliminating foods without assistance can potentially worsen symptoms or cause new problems if important food groups are omitted. The most common gas-producing foods are legumes (such as beans) and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli). In addition, some people have trouble with onions, celery, carrots, raisins, bananas, apricots, prunes, sprouts, and wheat.

Eat more fiber, if you have constipation. You can do this by eating more fruits and vegetables. Or you can take fiber pills or powders. (If eating more fiber makes symptoms worse, cut back on the fiber.)

Exercise. Do something active for 20 to 60 minutes, 3 to 5 days a week. Studies show this helps improve IBS symptoms

Psychosocial therapiesStress and anxiety can worsen IBS in some people. The best approach for reducing stress and anxiety depends upon your situation and the severity of your symptoms. Have an open discussion with your clinician about the possible role that stress and anxiety could be having on your symptoms, and together decide upon the best course of action.

Some people benefit from formal counseling, with or without antidepressant or antianxiety medications. Other treatments, such as hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy, may also be helpful..

Participation in a support group can also be valuable.

Antibiotics — The role of antibiotics in the treatment of IBS remains unclear. There are some patients whose IBS symptoms benefit from antibiotic treatment especially those with post infectious IBS.. Rifaximin has been approved for treatment of IBS without constipation.

Although IBS can cause substantial physical discomfort and emotional distress, most people are able to control their symptoms and live a normal life without developing serious health problems