Irritable bowel syndrome also called IBS is one of the most common disorders of the digestive tract. Symptoms of IBS often increase with stress or after eating and include:
Abdominal bloating, pain, and gas
Mucus in the stool
Feeling as if a bowel movement hasn't been completed
Irregular bowel habits with constipation, diarrhea, or both.
The cause of IBS is unknown. Symptoms are thought to be related to abnormal muscle contractions in the intestines. However, when tests are done, they find no changes, such as inflammation or tumors, in the physical structure of the intestine.
IBS can persist for many years. An episode may be more then severe than the one before it, but the disorder itself does not worsen over time or lead to any serious diseases such as cancer. Symptoms tend to get better over time.
If you have not yet been diagnosed with IBS, try to rule out other causes of stomach problems such as eating a new food, nervousness, or stomach flu. Try home treatment for 1 to 2 weeks. If there is no improvement of if your symptoms worsen, make an appointment with your doctor.
Your doctor may prescribe medications for you to take in addition to doing home treatment. There are no tests that can diagnose IBS but your doctor may recommend testing to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. The amount of testing your doctor will do depends on your age, the pattern, and severity of your symptoms, and your response to initial treatment.
There is no way to prevent IBS. However symptoms often worsen or improve because of changes in your diet, your stress level, your medications, the amount of exercise you get, and for other reasons. Identify the things that trigger your symptoms. This can help you avoid or minimize attacks.
If constipation is your main symptom
Eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Add fibre rich food to your diet, but do this slowly so that you do not develop severe cramps
Add unprocessed wheat bran to your diet. Start with 15g per day then gradually increase to 60g
Try a product that contains a bulk forming agent such as Citrucel, FiberCon, or Metamucil. Start with 15g a day and drink extra water to prevent bloating
Use laxatives only if your doctor recomends them.
Get active. Increase your physical activity.
If diarrhea is your main symptom:
Try the dietary suggestions for relieving constipation. Fibre rich foods and wheat bran can help reduce diarrhea
Avoid foods that make diarrhea worse. Try eliminating one food at a time then add it back into your diet and see if symptoms develop.
Many people find the following foods or ingredients make it worse:
foods high in acid such as citrus fruits
fatty foods like bacon, sausage, butter, or oil
starchy foods such as bread, rice or potatoes
If diarrhea persists a non prescription medication such as lopeamide found in Imodium may help. Check with your doctor if you are using lopeamide more than twice a month.
To reduce stress keep a log of the events in your life that seem to trigger your symptoms then try to correct the underlying issues and get regular and vigorous exercise.
When To Call Your Doctor:
If you have been diagnosed with IBS and your symptoms get worse and begin to disrupt your usual activities or does not respond to home treatments
If you are becoming increasingly fatigued
If you are symptoms frequently wake you up at night
If your pain gets worse with movement or coughing
If you have abdominal pain and fever
If you have abdominal pain that does not get better when you pass a stool
If you are loosing weight and you don't know why
If your appetite has decreased
If there is blood in your stool