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Having Frequent Upset Tummy? Check for Irritable Tummy/Bowel Syndrome

Updated: 16 Jan 2024
Published: 01 Feb 2023
Irritable Tummy/Bowel Syndrome

IBS Overview

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, the intestines, and the stomach. Due to it, an individual may display a wide range of symptoms like bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation.

Some people believe that it raises the risk of colon cancer or damages the digestive tract. However, it is practically not true, and changing the lifestyle and diet can help manage it effectively.

Is IBS a Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder?

IBS primarily affects the digestive system, and oftentimes, it surfaces as an uncomfortable gastrointestinal disorder. Affected individuals experience cramps, abdominal pain, and excessive gas. As the primary cause of IBS is the lack of interaction between the nerves of the brain and the gut, it can be referred to as a functional gastrointestinal disorder.

The problems due to IBS causes the gastrointestinal tract to become sensitive. Due to these problems, the digestive tract becomes sensitive, and bowel muscles contract in a different way. This is the main reason why individuals display symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.

Different Types of IBS

IBS has a direct relationship with bowel movements and draws a line of distinction between two distinct forms of the medical condition. Knowing the kind of IBS an individual has is necessary for its suitable treatment.

Individuals with IBS may experience a combination of normal as well as abnormal bowel movements. Their abnormal or unusual bowel movements help identify the type of IBS they have. IBS can be categorized into the following categories:

  • IBS-C (IBS with constipation): This kind of IBS involves lumpy and hard poop.
  • IBS-D (IBS with diarrhoea): Individuals with this form of IBS pass out watery and watery poop.
  • IBS-M (IBS with mixed bowel habits): Individuals who have this kind of IBS pass out lumpy and hard poop as well as watery and loose poop in a single day.

Other Names of IBS

Professionals use different names to define IBS Syndrome. To define the latter, they use the following names:

  • Spastic colon
  • Irritable colon
  • Irritable bowel
  • Nervous stomach

Who Are at a Greater Risk of Developing IBS?

IBS usually occurs in individuals who are either in their teens or in their early 40s. Further, women are more vulnerable to developing IBS syndrome than their male counterparts. IBS also runs down in family history.

Along with family history, the following individuals are at risk of developing IBS:

  • Those who have a food intolerance
  • Those with a history of sexual or physical abuse
  • Those who have a severe infection in the digestive tract
  • Those who suffer from anxiety, tension, or emotional stress

Causes of IBS

Despite many studies, the causes of IBS are still not clear. Most researchers believe it is the outcome of many factors. Those that are primarily responsible for it include the following:

  • Visceral hypersensitivity: This is a medical condition that occurs due to the hypersensitivity of the nerves that are located in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Dysmotility: The muscles of the gastrointestinal tract undergo contractions to facilitate the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract. Any problem with it causes dysmotility.
  • Brain-gut dysfunction: A brain-gut dysfunction is the outcome of a miscommunication between the nerves of the brain and the liver.

How IBS Affects the Body

Compared to individuals without IBS, those who have it experience a greater contraction of the colon muscle. This contraction of the muscle is the primary reason why individuals with IBS experience pain and cramps. Due to lower pain tolerance, such individuals experience discomfort while going through pains and cramps.

According to research, individuals with IBS have more bacteria in the GI tract than those who do not have it. This causes affected individuals to start displaying the symptoms of IBS.

Symptoms of IBS

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS affects male individuals and their female counterparts differently. However, some of its symptoms are common for individuals of both genders. Most women experience severe symptoms while going through their periods. The majority of those who display severe symptoms of IBS during their periods become upset or stressed. Managing flare-ups well is important for the physical and mental well-being of such women.

Some common symptoms of IBS include the following:

  • Harder or looser bowel movements than usual
  • Excess gas
  • Cramps or pain in the lower half of the abdomen
  • Constipation or diarrhoea 
  • Whitish poop or mucus in the poop

Diagnosis of IBS

If your healthcare provider feels that you may have IBS going by your symptoms, they will recommend a physical exam. In addition, they will also ask you the following questions:

  • Do bowel movements cause pain?
  • Have you experienced any change in bowel movement?
  • Do you notice any change in your poop?
  • How soon did your symptoms start, and how often do you experience them?
  • Have you been taking any medication off late?
  • Have you had a stressful event in your life?

In addition to a physical examination, your doctor may recommend the following test:

Treatment of IBS

If your healthcare provider is a primary care physician, they will recommend you to go to a gastroenterologist and refer to them as they specialize in the treatment of diseases of the digestive system.

As far as the treatment of IBS is concerned, there is no fixed treatment for it. Its treatment depends on the symptoms experienced or displayed by an individual. Dietary and lifestyle changes are the two common aspects of the treatment of IBS. The common treatment options for IBS include the ones given below.

1. Dietary changes:

  • More fiber in the diet
  • Supplemental fiber
  • Additional consumption of water
  • A specific diet for improving the symptoms
  • Limited consumption of milk and cheese

2. Activity Changes:

  • Regular exercise
  • Quitting smoking
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Smaller meals at a regular duration
  • Keeping track of our diet and making changes according to the requirements of the body

3. Medical Changes:

  • Antidepressant medications for relief from anxiety and depression
  • Medicines for abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhoea
  • Probiotics

If the prescribed medicines do not work, you may need to undergo the following treatments:

  • Hypnotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Biofeedback

Final Thoughts

IBS, which is primarily due to miscommunication between the brain nerves and the gut, makes an individual feel pain and discomfort. While it may not cause colon cancer, treating its symptoms are necessary to help an affected individual be at ease. As far as the treatment of IBS is concerned, it varies from one individual to the other. To a large extent, its treatment depends on the symptoms. Making subtle changes to diet and lifestyle can go a long way toward helping an individual improve the symptoms. Prevention is the best option to keep the possibility of developing IBS at bay.

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