Doctor's Notes on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is known as a functional gastrointestinal disorder, meaning that is diagnosed based on having a set of symptoms over time affecting the movement of the gastrointestinal tract rather than a specific type of damage to the gastrointestinal tract. The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not well understood. Symptoms and signs of irritable bowel syndrome may include:
- changes in bowel habits,
- abdominal pain or cramping, and
- food intolerance.
Other associated symptoms may include:
- abdominal swelling,
- loss of appetite,
- weight loss,
- loose stools,
- straining to have a bowel movement, and
- the presence of mucus in the stool or foamy-appearing stool.
What Is the Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Dietary modifications are typically the first treatment for IBS, avoiding foods that trigger symptoms. Other home remedies include eating smaller, more frequent meals, smoking cessation, regular exercise, probiotics, and taking ginger or peppermint.
If dietary methods do not control the symptoms, medical therapies are often used, including:
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Constipation (Adults)Constipation in adults refers to difficulty in passing stools or a decrease in the frequency of bowel movements. Causes of constipation in adults include a poor diet, excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption, inadequate fluid intake, poor bowel habits, certain medications, pregnancy, certain diseases or conditions, age, and more. Treatment for constipation include lifestyle changes, OTC remedies, and medication if necessary.
Constipation: in Infants, Babies, Toddlers, and ChildrenConstipation in infants and children affects up to 10% of children at any given time. Causes of constipation in infants and children include a wilfulness to avoid the toilet, prior painful or frightening experiences that make them avoid the bathroom, a concern for lack of privacy in public restrooms, changes in diet, dehydration, and several medical disorders. Symptoms of constipation in infants and children include vague abdominal pain, vomiting, decreased appetite, urinary tract infections (UTIs), urinary incontinence, frequent urination, and bedwetting. Home remedies and self-care at home is possible with mild constipation, however, it may be necessary for the affected infant or child to see a pediatrician or other healthcare professional.
DiarrheaDiarrhea can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, parasites, intestinal diseases or conditions, reactions to medications, and food intolerance or allergies. Symptoms of diarrhea include watery stools, abdominal cramping, fever, and dehydration. Most cases of diarrhea can be treated at home. In some cases (in the elderly, small children, or those with severe or chronic medical conditions) may need to be hospitalized due to dehydration.
EndoscopyWith the procedure known as gastrointestinal endoscopy, a doctor is able to see the inside lining of your digestive tract. This examination is performed using an endoscope -- a flexible fiberoptic tube, usually with the patient under sedation.
Flatulence (Gas)Flatulence (gas) is a normal bodily function. Excess gas may be produced by swallowing excess air, problems in the breakdown of undigested foods, lactose deficiency, malabsorbtion problems, and bowel habits such as parasites, poor dietary fiber, cancer, diverticulitis, thyroid problems, narcotic and other drug use.
IBD vs. IBS: What Are the Differences?Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD consists of a group of gastrointestinal (GI, digestive) tract diseases that cause chronic inflammation of the GI tract (from the esophagus to the anus). The most common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease. While irritable bowel syndrome or IBS a functional disease and is comprised of a group of symptoms that affect only the colon and cause symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements. Both IBD and IBS cause symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping and pain. But that is where the similarities end. IBD symptoms are more serious and severe and include bloody diarrhea, joint pain, skin problems, eye problems, fever, and severe and/or chronic abdominal pain. The symptoms of IBS often are uncomfortable and painful and include bloating, gas, mild to moderate abdominal pain, diarrhea (IBS-D), constipation (IBS-C), changes in the frequency if bowel movements, discomfort or pain that resolves after a bowel movement, whitish mucus in the stool, changes in the way stools look, and the feeling of having to have a bowel movement after just having one. Researchers do not know what causes either GI condition, but they believe that there are genetic and immune response factors involved in IBD. IBS is a condition in which the colon does not function normally (functional disease), but there is no structural damage to it, for example, it does not cause ulcers in colon. IBD can affect the entire digestive tract while IBS only affects the colon. Treatment for both conditions is to primarily to manage the symptoms. Other treatments for IBD depend upon the type of IBD, the severity, any other problems with health, the part of the GI tract affected, medications, stress management, supplements, and in some cases, surgery. IBS treatment involves managing symptoms and avoiding triggers that worsen them, for example, stress management, dietary changes, exercise, and other therapies.The prognosis for inflammatory bowel disease depends upon the type and severity of disease. The prognosis for IBS depends upon how well the patient does with changes in diet, exercise, and stress management. There is no cure for either disease. REFERENCES: Womenshealth.gov. "Inflammatory bowel disease." Updated Apr 18, 2017.
IBS TriggersIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be managed by avoiding IBS triggers that cause symptom flares. IBS-related diarrhea and constipation associated with IBS can be caused by triggers such as: Diet Stress Anxiety Medications (antidepressants) Menstruation Learn what these triggers are and how to prevent IBS-related episodes of diarrhea and constipation.
Stress: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Treatment, and ManagementAll of us experience stress. But how does it affect your body? Learn about symptoms, causes, management, and treatment.
What Should You Eat When You Have IBS?Depending on how your irritable bowel disease is expressed and what your specific flare triggers are. They include low FODMAP diets, gluten free diets, low fiber or high fiber diets, among others.
Which Foods Trigger IBS?Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that describes a group of gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain, bowel habit changes, excess gas, bloating (abdominal distention), abdominal cramping, and food intolerances.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.