IBS is a disorder of motility of the entire
digestive tract that causes abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea.
With IBS, the digestive tract is especially sensitive to many stimuli
stress, diet, drugs, hormones or minor irritants may cause the digestive
tract to contract abnormally, usually leading to diarrhea. Periods of
constipation may occur between bouts of diarrhea. Irritable bowel
syndrome affects women three times more often than men.
The brain has enormous control over the digestive system. Stress,
anxiety, depression, fear, and virtually any strong emotion can lead to
diarrhea, constipation and other changes in the bowel function and can
further worsen a flare-up of irritable bowel syndrome.
During a flare-up, the contractions of the digestive tract become
stronger and more frequent and the resulting rapid transit of food and
stool through the large intestine often leads to diarrhea. Crampy pain
seems to result from the strong contractions of the large intestine and
increased sensitivity of the receptors in the large intestine that sense
stretching and pressure. Flare-ups almost always occur when a person is
For some people, high calorie meals or a high-fat
diet may be to blame. For others, wheat, dairy products, coffee, tea or
citrus fruits appear to aggravate the symptoms however it is not clear
if these foods are the cause. Others find that eating too quickly or
eating after too long a period without food stimulates a flare-up of
irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Symptoms are commonly triggered by eating too quickly or too much. A few
minutes pass, diarrhea with pain occurs. The diarrhea may begin very
suddenly and with extreme urgency. Sometimes the urgency is so strong
that the person loses control and cannot reach a bathroom in time.
Diarrhea during the night is rare. Sometimes constipation and diarrhea
alternate. Mucus often appears in the stool. The pain may come in bouts
of continuous dull aching or cramps, usually over the lower abdomen. The
person may experience bloating, gas, nausea, headaches, fatigue,
depression, anxiety and difficulty concentrating. Having a bowel
movement often relieves the pain. Periods of stress may worsen symptoms.
Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Most people with irritable bowel syndrome appear healthy. A physical
examination generally does not reveal anything unusual except sometimes
tenderness over the large intestine. Doctors generally perform tests
such as blood work-up, a stool examination, and a sigmoidoscopy to
differentiate irritable bowel syndrome from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative
colitis, collagenous and lymphocytic colitis and the numerous other
diseases that can cause abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits.
These test results are usually normal, although the stool may be watery.
The results of a sigmoisoscopy, which may cause spasms and pain, are
normal. Other tests such as abdominal ultrasound, x-rays of the
intestines or a colonoscopy might be tried.
Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
The treatment for this syndrome differs from person to person. People
who can identify particular foods or types of stress that bring on the
problem should avoid them if possible. For most people, especially those
who tend to be constipated, regular physical activity helps keep the
digestive tract functioning normally.
In general, a normal diet is best. Many people do better eating
frequent, small meals rather than large, less frequent meals i.e. 5-6
small meals rather than 3 large meals per day. People with abdominal
expansion (distention) and increased gas(flatulence) should avoid beans,
cabbage and other foods that are difficult to digest. Sorbitol, an
artificial sweetener used in diatetic foods and in some drugs and
chewing gums should be avoided or consumed in small amounts only.
Fructose, a common constituent of fruits, berries, and some plants
should also be eaten in small amounts only. A low-fat diet helps at
times and for people who have both lactase deficiency and irritable
bowel syndrome should not eat dairy products.