Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder that causes cramping, Abdominal Pain, Bloating, Constipation, and Diarrhea. While there is no known cause for IBS, people who suffer from the disorder seem to have a colon that is sensitive to stress or specific types of food. Symptoms may occur sporadically or worsen over time. Although IBS can cause great discomfort, the disorder does not permanently damage your intestines or lead to cancer. Changes in diet or medication to address symptoms are the most common forms of treatment. For some people, however, IBS can be disabling. They may be unable to work, attend social events, or even travel short distances.
Symptoms of IBS
Experts have yet to discover the cause for IBS. Some believe that people who suffer from IBS have a colon that is particularly sensitive and reactive to certain foods and stress. Sometimes people find that their symptoms subside for a few months and then return, while others report a constant worsening of symptoms over time. The most common symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal Pain
- Spasms that come and go
- Mild Celiac Disease
- Depression and anxiety
The contraction of the colon muscles and the movement of its contents is controlled by nerves, hormones, and impulses in the colon muscles. These contractions move the contents inside the colon toward the rectum. During this passage, water and nutrients are absorbed into the body, and what is left over is stool. A few times each day contractions push the stool down the colon, resulting in a bowel movement. However, if the muscles of the colon, sphincters, and pelvis do not contract in the right way, the contents inside the colon do not move correctly, resulting in Abdominal Pain, Cramps, Constipation, a sense of incomplete stool movement, or Diarrhea. To accurately diagnose IBS, Dr. Ranvir Singh, Dr. Stephen Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin J. Parikh, or Dr. Long B. Nguyen, conduct a variety of tests including:
- Stool sampling
- Blood tests
Many people suffer from IBS for a long time before seeking medical treatment. No cure has been found for IBS, but many options are available to treat the symptoms. Dr. Ranvir Singh, Dr. Stephen Rashbaum, and Dr. Nitin J. Parikh will prescribe the best treatment for your particular symptoms and encourage you to manage stress and make dietary changes.
Medication: Medications are an important part of relieving symptoms. Dr. Ranvir Singh, Dr. Stephen Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin Parikh, or Dr. Long B. Nguyen, may suggest fiber supplements or laxatives for Constipation or medicines to decrease Diarrhea. An antispasmodic is commonly prescribed to help control colon muscle spasms and reduce Abdominal Pain. Antidepressants may relieve some symptoms as well. Medications affect people differently, and no one medication or combination of medications will work for everyone with IBS. Working with Dr. Ranvir Singh, Dr. Stephen Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin J. Parikh, or Dr. Long B. Nguyen will help you find the best combination of medicine, diet, counseling, and support to control symptoms.
Stress: Feeling mentally or emotionally tense, troubled, angry, or overwhelmed can stimulate colon spasms in people with IBS. The colon has many nerves that connect it to the brain. These nerves control the normal contractions of the colon and cause abdominal discomfort at stressful times. People often experience cramps or “butterflies” when they are nervous or upset. In people with IBS, the colon can be overly responsive to even slight conflict or stress. Stress management options include:
- Stress reduction training and relaxation therapies such as meditation
- Counseling and support
- Regular exercise such as walking or yoga
- Changes to the stressful situations in your life
- Adequate sleep
Facts to Remember:
- IBS is a disorder that interferes with the normal functions of the colon.
- It is a common disorder found more often in women than men.
- People with IBS have a more sensitive colon.
- IBS does not harm the intestines and does not lead to cancer. It is not related to Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
For many people, careful eating reduces IBS symptoms. Before changing the diet, keep a journal noting the foods that seem to cause distress. For instance, if dairy products cause symptoms to flare up, try eating less of those foods. You might be able to tolerate yogurt better than other dairy products because it contains bacteria that supply the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk products. Dairy products are an important source of calcium and other nutrients. If you need to avoid dairy products, adequate nutrients should be added in foods or supplements should be taken.
In many cases, dietary fiber may lessen IBS symptoms, particularly constipation. However, it may not help with lowering pain or decreasing diarrhea. Whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of fiber. High-fiber diets keep the colon mildly distended, which may help prevent spasms. Some forms of fiber keep water in the stool, thereby preventing hard stools that are difficult to pass. High-fiber diets may cause gas and bloating, although some people report that these symptoms go away within a few weeks. Increasing fiber intake by 2 to 3 grams per day will help reduce the risk of increased gas and bloating.
- Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day.
- Avoid soda which may result in gas and discomfort.
- Avoid chewing gum and eating too quickly.
- Avoid over eating
- Eat meals that are low in fat.
Board-Certified physicians Dr. Ranvir Singh, Dr. Stephen Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin J. Parikh, Dr. Long B. Nguyen, Dr. Ruth Montalvo, and providers Tammi D’Elena, PA-C and Vanessa T. Bridgeman, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC; care for patients in the North Atlanta, GA; area including Johns Creek, GA, Cumming, GA, Lawrenceville, GA, Alpharetta, GA, and Dawsonville, GA. The in-house endoscopy suite at Digestive Care Physicians is a certified facility which has achieved the highest level of accreditation by the Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). If you suffer from gastrointestinal problems, abdominal pain, or need a colorectal cancer screening, contact us at (770) 227-2222 to schedule an appointment.