Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), is abdominal pains, or cramps, usually in the lower half of the abdomen that are agrravated by meals and relieved by having a bowel movement. There is visible abdominal distension when a person has irritable bowel syndrome.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also called "irritable colon" or "spastic colon," is a common condition that affects between 25 and 55 million Americans, the majority of whom are women. The condition most often occurs in people in their late teens to early 40's.
In essence, the condition is a combination of abdominal discomfort or pain and altered bowel habits: either altered frequently (diarrhea or constipation) or altered stool form (thin, hard, or soft and liquid).
IBS is not a life-threatening condition and it does not make a person more likely to develop other colon conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or colon cancer or any diseases of the heart or nerves. Yet IBS can be a chronic problem that can significantly impair quality of life in those that have it. For example, people with IBS miss work 3 times more than people without IBS and the condition is associated with absenteeism from school, decreased participation in activities of daily living, alterations of one's work setting (shifting to working at home, changing hours) or giving up work altogether.
Some people with IBS have other symptoms not related to their digestive tract, such as urinary symptoms or sexual problems. Symptoms of IBS tend to worsen with stress! People with IBS have traditionally been described as having "constipation predominant," "diarrhea-predominant," or an alternating pattern of constipation and diarrhea. Each type represents about a third of the overall IBS population.
Many IBS patients appear to be stressed, have a psychiatric disorder, or have experienced some sort of a traumatic event such as sexual abuse or domestic violence, or a loved one in the family is going through domestic violence and the patient feels helpless. It is not clear what comes first-- the emotional turmoil or IBS. Nevertheless, there's evidence that stress management and behavioral therapy helps relieve symptoms.
Some people may have digestive systems that rumble angrily with consumption of dairy, wheat, fructose (a simple sugar found in fruits), or sorbitol (a sugar substitute). Eating certain food such as fatty foods, carbonated drinks, and alcohol can also invite chronic digestive upset. There's no proof any of these edibles cause IBS, but they may trigger symptoms.
Eating Large Meals
Eating while doing a stressful activity, such as driving or working in front of the computer. Again, these activities do not cause IBS, but for the hypersensitive colon, they can spell trouble.
Taking certain medication
Studies have shown an association between IBS symptoms and antibiotics, antidepressants, and drugs containing sorbitol.
Diet and lifestyle changes
Nearly all people with IBS can be helped, but no one treatment works for everyone. Usually, with a few basic changes in diet and activities, IBS will improve over time. Here are some steps you can take to help reduce symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, teas, soda and some over the counter pain killer medications)
- Increase fiber in your diet (found in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts).
- Don't smoke.
- Learn to relax, either by getting more exercise or by reducing stress in your life.