Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

IBS is very common and in America at least 58 million have or had Irritable Bowel Syndrome at some stage in their lives. They complain of diarrhoea and/constipation and cramp like abdominal pains. These symptoms vary in individual Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients and also from day to day. President of the IBS Self Help and Support Group, Jeffrey Roberts, says, “IBS is an illness which seems to strike people down.”


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 with bowel movement, and associated with a change in the frequency of bowel movement and appearance of the stools.


Certain foods and stress can trigger symptoms or cause a flare up of IBS. No one is certain what exactly IBS is or what causes it. What we knowat present is the Large Gut in IBS sufferers are more sensitive and, because 80% of IBS patients are women, hormonal changes may be a trigger. It can develop after a severe episode of gastroenteritis and there is a higher incident in individuals who were physically and sexually abused as children.


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.


If you have symptoms of IBS, make sure you see your family physician for a diagnosis. Your family physician will do tests to exclude serious diseases before a diagnosis of IBS is made. A diagnosis can be made using the Rome Criteria with minimal diagnostic test. However, you should see your doctor very soon if you have bleeding from the rectum, loss of appetite, weight loss, anaemia or symptoms developing after fifty years of age because you will need addition investigation.


Some IBS sufferers think their illness is “All in the head.” This is far from the truth but the brain and symptom development are linked and experts think that Brain-Gut connection is very important. Serotonin is linked to IBS. High blood levels are present in Diarrhoea predominant IBS and low levels are found in Constipation predominant IBS.


We know that in Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the gut is normal, it is not a cancer and will not lead to cancer or other gastrointestinal disease and it is very common. It is estimated that at some time in their lives as much as 20% of the global population has or had IBS.


To come to terms with IBS is difficult for patients especially when experts tell them 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, stress management, behavioural therapy and an increasing range of 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 triggers strong Gastro-colic reflex. This a very strong peristaltic contraction in response to stretching of the stomach. In IBS patients, this can be very painful. It is better to have smaller meals and eat frequently. You need nutrients from food to remain healthy, so it is important that you do not avoid foods.

Stress is a trigger for IBS symptoms. Relieve stress and your IBS will improve.


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