Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition in which a number of gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances like abdominal pain, flatulence, and altered bowel habits become a regular feature of the lives of those afflicted with it.
Women are more likely to get affected by this condition than men and it has also been found that the disease runs in families. Several factors can trigger irritable bowel syndrome, like food poisoning, infections, and psychological factors.
Abdominal pain is one of the common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, this symptom is just a small part of the trouble which this disorder may put a person into. Although the symptoms may seem intimidating, and intolerable, the condition is not known to cause any permanent abdominal damage or serious threat to health. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has no cure till date, but it can be managed by some changes in diet and lifestyle, and controlling stress.
What does irritable bowel syndrome causes abdominal pain?
Gastroenterologists have no specific theory that can explain the presence of abdominal pain in irritable bowel syndrome. But what they believe is, the symptom could be a manifestation of abnormal intestinal contractions that is most likely to occur in irritable bowel syndrome. These contractions could occur in the form of spasms, disrupting the normal coordination of muscular activity. And because of this, food may move either slower or faster than normal through the large intestine. According to what doctors have noticed, this symptom of IBS could become worse and subside over months or years. In some cases, the same could last even for decades.
What are the indications of irritable bowel syndrome and what causes it?
The symptoms caused by irritable bowel syndrome tend to mimic those of other medical conditions. Also, symptoms are not the same with everyone, and vary widely from patient to patient.
Apart from abdominal pain or cramping, other symptoms that may surface include flatulence, bloated feeling, stomach disorders such as constipation and diarrhoea, and stool smothered in mucus. Such symptoms, according to most experts, usually occur between the ages of 20 and 30.
Although, these symptoms do not follow a continuous pattern, they tend to surface and subside in bouts, especially during stress or post eating certain foods. Severe symptoms may include abnormal weight loss, bleeding from anus, anaemia, and a lump in the abdomen. These symptoms warrant further tests to determine the severity of the condition.
One of the most probable reasons of irritable bowel syndrome not having a cure is its idiopathic nature. Meaning, the condition has no specific causes. But what experts know is that, some sort of disruption in the normal digestion process in the body contributes largely to the development of irritable bowel syndrome. Food may move in the intestines faster than normal thus, causing diarrhoea as one of the symptoms. Reversely, food may move slower, and cause constipation and other symptoms. Having abnormal serotonin (a chemical that influences digestion) levels is also thought to be linked with irritable bowel syndrome in most people.
Treatment options for irritable bowel syndrome
The main goal of the treatment is to manage and relieve the symptoms and lead a normal life. No single treatment for the condition produces best results for everyone. The patient has to work with his/her doctor and decide what's best.
Self-Care treatment options
- For managing abdominal pain that is accompanied by diarrhoea, doctors may provide the patient with lower dosages of antidepressant medications. As the pain could also be caused by spasms as explained already, anticholinergic medications or antispasmodics could be prescribed too. These drugs help relax the muscles of the stomach and intestines thus, manage pain in the abdomen.
- To control diarrhoea, the patient may be recommended to take prescription-strength anti-diarrheal drugs.
- Antibiotics could also be recommended, but its role in treating irritable bowel syndrome is still under study.
- Changes in the diet and lifestyle provide a great deal of help in keeping the symptoms from getting worse. A diet dedicated to irritable bowel syndrome involves increasing the intake of fibre. As fibre may worsen gas and abdominal pain, it is advised to go for a gradual increase in the amount, over a period of a few weeks. Also, to manage diarrhoea or constipation, soluble fibre (found in oats, rye, barley, bananas, apples, root vegetables, etc.) works better than the insoluble one (found in whole grain bread, bran, cereals, nuts and certain seeds, etc.).
- Apart from taking medications, using a heating pad could also provide relief from bouts of abdominal pain. Heat helps relax stomach muscles, and prevents cramping.
- Avoid alcohol, chocolate, caffeinated beverage, dairy products, sugar-free sweeteners, and gas producing foods such as beans, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. All such food items tend to act as triggers for worsening the signs and symptoms. Fatty foods must also be kept away from the menu.
- What most people fail to follow is to take their meals at a regular time. Skipping meals or eating at irregular hours, may put the bowel function in jeopardy. So take your meals on time.
- Develop the habit of drinking at least eight glasses of fluid a day including water, and other non-caffeinated drinks.
- Cut down on the intake of tea and coffee best it is to avoid them in case you have a serious form of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Bloating and flatulence can be relieved by regular intake of oat-based breakfast.
To conclude, never ignore the benefit which you may derive from inculcating regular exercises
. They may not only help you manage depression and stress, but also help manage irritable bowel syndrome. Apart from making changes in diet and lifestyle, and taking medications, some people may also require the aid of psychological therapy if their irritable bowel syndrome is more of a stress-induced medical condition.