What You Need to Know About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a condition affecting the large intestine marked by alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation, abdominal cramping, and straining. It is sometimes called a spastic colon. It is not a disease, and there is no cure for IBS, but it can be managed over one’s lifetime. IBS has a high incidence in women under the age of 40, if there is a family history, and those with anxiety and stress. The same is true for children, but may include a history of gastroenteritis, or food poisoning. The cause is not well-defined. Normally, the muscles of your intestine contract and relax in rhythm, but in IBS the contractions may be stronger and longer, resulting in diarrhea, or weaker and slower, resulting in constipation. Poor communication between your brain and your intestines can lead to a change in reaction time while you are digesting.

Possible causes include anxiety, stress, hormones, laxative abuse, food or drug allergies, and lactose intolerance. Also, diet seems to be a large factor, such as fiber, raw fruit, coffee, alcohol, spicy or highly seasoned foods, and cold foods. Additional symptoms include abdominal pain, stools that are very thin and pencil like, heart burn, mucus on stool, bloating, gas, fatigue, and weakness. Tests include checking stool for blood, parasites, or bacteria, blood tests, lower GI test, where you swallow a liquid barium and have x-rays, and a sigmoidoscopy. Complications of IBS includes inflammation of hemorrhoids, and malnourishment. In children seek medical attention if growth is poor, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, or if having vomiting or diarrhea at night.

Immediate treatment includes stress management, and change of lifestyle. Dietary changes which are based on patient’s symptoms. A food log will help identify foods that cause symptoms. List what you ate and symptoms appearing after your meal. Slowly add foods to your diet to allow yourself to adjust. If you have cramps or diarrhea try to stick with a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. Avoiding high gas foods such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and raw fruit. Fatty foods, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks. Lactose containing foods, such as milk and cheese should be avoided, as well as certain grains. For children avoid foods, and drinks with sugar. Also, do not let your child eat large meals. Increasing dietary bulk with supplements, and fluid intake help manage symptoms. Medications include supplements in high fiber to control constipation, such as, psyllium (Metamucil), methyl cellulose (Citrucel), Milk of Magnesia (MOM), and polyethylene glycol (Miralax). Hyoscyamine (Levsin), and dicyclomine (Bentyl) help stop spasms. Loperamid (Immodium) helps stop diarrhea. Other meds that can be used are laxatives, and meds to treat nausea. For anxiety and stress mild tranquilizers and/or an antidepressant may be prescribed. Aloestron (Lotronex), and Lubiprostone (Amitiza) are new medications on the market and are treatments currently geared towards women. Seek immediate medical care if you have rectal bleeding, continuous abdominal pain, and weight loss.




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