What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal condition that causes abdominal pain, irregular and sporadic bowel movements, affecting your colon (your large-intestine). Unlike IBD, your intestinal tract is not damaged.

 

IBS affects 25-45 million people in the US, making it one of the most common functioning gastrointestinal disorders. While IBS is not life-threatening, it can significantly reduce one’s quality of life. 

 

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

 

There is no exact cause for IBS. However, several factors may contribute to IBS, including:

 

  • Miscommunication between the brain and the gut

  • Abnormal gut motility, leading to contractions and spasms

  • Intestinal hypersensitivity

  • Bacterial overgrowth

  • Genetics

  • Food sensitivity

  • Imbalance in body chemicals

 

What are the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

 

IBS symptoms are chronic and may not always be present, but require long-term management. Symptoms may include:

 

  • Cramping

  • Abdominal pain

  • Bloating

  • Gas

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Changes in appearance/frequency of bowel movements

 

How Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?

 

There is no definitive test to diagnose IBS, so your GI doctor will run tests to eliminate other bowel diseases. Tests may include colonoscopies, blood tests, stool samples, and diagnostic imaging.

 

Doctors will likely follow diagnostic criteria to determine if you have IBS. This can include:

 

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort at least once per week over at least three months

  • Pain or discomfort relating to bowel movements

  • Changes in frequency of bowel movements or consistency of your stool

 

What is the Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

 

While there is no cure for IBS, there are lifestyle changes and medications available to help manage symptoms. 

 

Some lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms can include:

 

  • Eliminating high-gas foods

  • Reducing gluten intake

  • Increasing fiber consumption

  • Reducing stress

 

Medication is also available to mitigate symptoms (such as constipation or diarrhea), depending on their nature and severity. Your GI doctor will work closely with you to develop an individualized plan.

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