IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that affects between 10% and 15% of people worldwide.
Pinning down specific triggers of IBS is difficult, but if you have been suffering from some or all of the following symptoms, IBS is likely the cause.
- Abdominal Pain
- This is the most common symptom. People who suffer from IBS often complain of pain in the lower or entire abdomen (it does not usually affect the upper abdomen in isolation). After a bowel movement, typically the pain will lessen.
- One-third of people who suffer from IBS have diarrhea as a direct result. Adults with this form of IBS have more bowel movements than those without and often suffer from sudden and immediate urges to go to the toilet. This has lead to patients avoiding social situations for fear of the sudden urge to go.
- Counterintuitively, IBS can also cause constipation. Half of the patients that suffer from IBS have the constipation-predominant type. This is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements a week. However, if the constipation is not painful, it is unlikely to be caused by IBS. Another common constipation-related symptom in IBS is the feeling of incomplete bowel movements, which causes unnecessary straining.
- Alternating Constipation and Diarrhea
- Both constipation and diarrhea are common symptoms of IBS, and 20% of patients suffer from one alternating into the other. The symptom that ties both of these together is abdominal pain that lessens with a bowel movement. This form of IBS typically features symptoms that are more intense than the other types.
- Bowel Movement Changes
- If the stools you pass vary dramatically from watery to hard and dry, this may be caused by IBS. This is because the condition affects the speed at which stool moves through the intestine. Mucus may also accumulate, which is not a symptom of other forms of constipation.
- Bloating and Gas
- As IBS changes digestion, gas production is increased, leading to discomfort, cramping, a bloated sensation, and the frequent passage of gas. This is one of the most common symptoms of IBS, and as many as 83% of sufferers report bloating-related complaints.
- Food Intolerance
- The symptoms of IBS can be triggered by specific foods, some of which are very common. The particular triggers change on a case by case basis, leading some patients to exclude many foods from their normal diet. This is why medicines like Colofac are so important as they allow for the restoration of normal dietary behaviors.
- Difficulty Sleeping and General Fatigue
- Fatigue and sleeping difficulties affect over half of patients with IBS. As the severity of other symptoms increased, so too does the general fatigue. This is because IBS disturbs normal sleeping patterns, leading to insomnia and low-quality sleep.
- Depression and Anxiety
- It is unclear whether IBS directly triggers these symptoms, or if they occur as a result of the other common ones. As each one reinforces the other, treating IBS leads to a reduction in general stress levels. Finding ways to reduce general anxiety also help reduce IBS symptoms.
- What to do About IBS
- As with most conditions, the first step is to consult a doctor. Since many of the symptoms are embarrassing, a lot of people who suffer from IBS never seek help and simply put up with unnecessary discomfort. However, the condition is treatable, and it is important to rule out more severe diseases that cause some of the same symptoms.
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From the doctor, you may receive a referral to a specialist who will help you identify and prevent common triggers. These specialists often recommend a variety of treatments ranging from dietary and lifestyle changes to medicines that help get the symptoms under control.