Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a collection of symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Most people with IBS can ease symptoms with changes in diet, medicine, and stress relief. For some people, IBS symptoms are more severe. IBS affects more women than men.
The cause of IBS is not known. There is also no cure for IBS, but there are ways to treat the symptoms.
Who Gets IBS?
IBS is one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. Up to 20% of U.S. adults have IBS symptoms. Women, people younger than 50, and those with a family member who has IBS are more likely to have IBS.
What Are IBS Symptoms?
IBS is defined as abdominal pain or discomfort, along with a changed bowel habit (such as diarrhea or constipation), for three months or more. The abdomen is the same as the “stomach area.”
The symptoms may be different from person to person and can include:
- Cramps or pain in the stomach area
- Constipation — infrequent stools that may be hard and dry
- Feeling like you haven’t finished a bowel movement
- Diarrhea — frequent loose stools
- Alternating between diarrhea and constipation
- Mucus in the stool
- Swollen or bloated stomach area
- Discomfort in the upper stomach area or feeling uncomfortably full or nauseous after eating a normal size meal
Women with IBS may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods.
What is the Treatment for IBS?
There is no cure for IBS, but there are things you can do to feel better. Treatment may include changing your diet and taking medication.
Changing your diet
You will want to limit or avoid these foods:
- Milk and milk products like cheese or ice cream
- Caffeinated drinks like coffee
- Carbonated beverages like soda, especially those that contain artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup
- Some fruits and vegetables
Find out which foods make your symptoms worse by writing in a journal what you eat during the day, the symptoms you have, and when symptoms occur.
Your doctor may give you medicine to help with symptoms:
- Fiber supplements to help control constipation
- Anti-diarrheal medications to help control diarrhea
- Antispasmodic agents to slow contractions in the bowel, which may help with diarrhea and pain
- Antidepressant medications if symptoms include pain or depression
General stress relief is also important. Regular exercise is an excellent way to relieve stress. It also helps the bowel function better and improves overall health. Meditation, yoga, and massage may also help.
If you believe you have irritable bowel syndrome, contact us at 479.582.9268 to schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options.
Office on Women’s Health – https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/irritable-bowel-syndrome