Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The term irritable bowel syndrome refers to a collective group of symptoms stemming from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), it does not damage the GI tract and is not considered a disease.

Diagnosing Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is typically diagnosed by stool consistency and is associated with abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and bloating. According to the NDDIC, people are diagnosed when they experience symptoms at least three times a month for three consecutive months. Many factors are thought to play a contributing role in irritable bowel syndrome. The exact cause is unclear at this point. However, brain-gut signal problems, motor problems in the GI tract, mental health issues, bacterial overgrowth, body chemicals, food sensitivities and/or genetics may be at the root of IBS. According to the NDDIC, irritable bowel syndrome affects anywhere from 3 to 20 percent of the population. It affects roughly twice as many women as men. Some people with IBS suffer from coexisting GI conditions. This may include acid reflux. Non-GI conditions associated with IBS include chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety, depression and chronic pelvic pain.

Treatment

When it comes to treatment, doctors usually recommend making dietary changes, like eating smaller meals. This may also include eating less fat and more carbohydrates. Some dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, beans, cabbage, and other gassy foods may increase symptoms. Patients may be advised to keep a food diary. Fiber supplements, probiotics, laxatives, antidiarrheal medicines, antispasmodics and antidepressants can also help manage the symptoms. In cases where IBS is linked to a mental health issue, therapy may also be suggested. This may involve talk therapy, hypnotherapy and mindfulness training. Mindfulness training is a technique whereby people learn to stay more in the moment, as opposed to focusing and worrying about why the symptoms are occurring.

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