What is IBS?

November 27, 2019

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is very common and in America at least 58 million have or had IBS at some stage in their lives. They frequently complain of abdominal pains, constipation, diarrhoea and bloating. Symptoms vary in individuals and for a sufferer it can vary from day to day. IBS is an illness which seems to strike people down, said Jeffrey Roberts, President of the IBS Self Help and Support Group.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that are present for 12 weeks in twelve month period. It is characterised by abdominal pain and must include at least two of the following three facts. The pain is relieved by defecation, associated with change in the frequency of stool and change in the appearance of stools.

Experts remain baffled and still do not know the clear cause or what exactly Irritable Bowel Syndrome is. From research, we know that in IBS, the large gut is more sensitive than some one without IBS. In addition hormonal changes may be a trigger and explains why 80% of IBS sufferers are women. It can develop following a severe episode of gastroenteritis. In addition here is a higher incidence of physical and sexual abuse in the IBS group. Flare up of Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms can be triggered by stress and certain foods.

Although Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a distressing condition with abdominal pains, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and rectal pain, there is no abnormality of the gut. In fact it is not IBS if anything was found during investigation.

See your doctor if you have symptoms of IBS. The family doctor will first exclude serious illnesses by arranging for you to have various test before arriving at a diagnosis. Since the introduction of the Rome Criteria, your family doctor can diagnose IBS with the minimum of tests. There are, however, some red flag symptoms that you must not ignore. See you doctor very soon if you have bleeding from the rectum, loss of appetite, weight loss, anaemia or symptoms that develop after you are fifty years old.

A common question IBS sufferers ask is if it is all in his or her head. The answer is no but the brain does have a role in when and how severe symptoms develop. Experts talk about the brain-gut connection and they believe it has a vital role in IBS. Serotonin is also important. Low blood levels are found in constipation predominant IBS and high level in diarrhoea predominant IBS.

Here are some things we do know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There is no abnormality in the large gut. It does not lead to cancer or any serious gastrointestinal disease. Although no one knows the true figure, it is estimated that as much as 20% of the global population has or had IBS at some stage in their lives.

It is very difficult for IBS patients to come to terms with this condition especially when they are told no one knows the true cause, no one treatment works for everyone and that there is no cure. Depending on the type of IBS you have, dietary changes, behavioural therapy, stress management and various alternative treatments options are available.

Some IBS patients have severe abdominal pains soon after eating certain foods. This may be because it is a large meal and this can trigger strong gastro-colic reflex. This a very strong peristaltic contraction in response to stretching of the stomach. This can be very painful for a patient with IBS. It is better to have smaller meals and eat frequently. It is important that you do not avoid foods. You need important nutrients to remain healthy.

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