Bowel troubles are typically commonplace, and with some over-the-counter medication, these issues will soon leave you in a couple of days. On the other hand, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that targets the patient’s intestines. With other names for this condition such as ‘nervous colon’, ‘sensitive gut’ or ‘spastic colon’, spasms or cramps frequently occur in the large intestine of IBS patients, often experienced as sharp abdominal pains or diarrhoea.
While Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not fatal, it can still cause a great deal of anxiety because its lasting symptoms can interfere with your daily activities. As such, it’s crucial to understand IBS, its symptoms, and how to best manage them to ease anxiety.
What is IBS?
IBS is a chronic condition that targets a patient’s colon. In the process, this condition affects the normal functioning of the large intestine – it alters bowel habits and results in diarrhoea and sharp abdominal pains. Even though IBS does not scar the colon permanently or results in complications such as cancer, IBS is a long-term condition that patients usually have to live with.
Currently, the causes of IBS have yet to be proven. However, there are a couple of risk factors to be aware of including, a family history of IBS, microbes in your intestines and psychological factors (such as stress).
What are the symptoms I should look out for?
When it comes to IBS, it’s important to know that symptoms can vary from person to person. But, there are some common symptoms such as changes to bowel habits. Apart from constipation or diarrhoea, IBS patients can experience loose stools, increased stool frequency, and the feeling that their bowels are not emptied after bowel movements. Sometimes, those with IBS also experience nausea, bloating, and excessive wind.
Can IBS be treated?
While there is no known cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, treatment options can manage the symptoms and help patients avoid risk factors that can trigger these symptoms. Upon seeking medical help, your doctor will craft a treatment plan with some of the following options.
- Dietary changes
If your symptoms include constipation, include rich sources of fibre such as wholegrain food, fruits and vegetables. It’s best to avoid food rich in fat content, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks as these can trigger the IBS symptoms. Consider also taking small meals that can be more manageable for your digestive system.
- Keep stress in check
Stress can also play a role in triggering IBS. Additionally, with the need for frequent visits to the toilet, you might feel anxious in a social setting. As such, consider looking into stress-relieving activities such as meditation, regular exercise, or a new hobby to keep you occupied.
- Suitable medication
Depending on your symptoms, whether you are experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation, your doctor will be able to prescribe the appropriate medication to alleviate your IBS symptoms. One such medication can be anti-spasmodic agents that can relax the bowel spasms.
IBS is one of many gut disorders that can be managed with a series of treatment options. As the signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be similar to Crohn’s Disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease that is also chronic), it’s vital to seek a specialist for an accurate diagnosis.
While speaking to your doctor, you can expect to find that IBS and Crohn’s Disease treatment costs can differ greatly. That’s because IBS responds to lifestyle changes while Crohn’s Disease typically requires surgery and a combination of drugs. Hence, if you’re uncertain of the source of your discomfort, consulting a specialist would be the best course of action for your appropriate treatment option.