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Information on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

DrSugar on Irritable Bowel Syndrome

DrSugar is in the house! This week she's teaching us about digestive issues.

In last week’s column, I answered a great question from a reader who was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by her physician. I addressed her question regarding Candida infection of the gastrointestinal system but felt that a separate column on IBS was warranted, given its common prevalence and media attention. As many as one in five adult Americans have symptoms of IBS, making it one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. It occurs more often in women than men; the onset of the symptoms occurs before the age of 35 in over half of people with IBS.

To learn more continue reading.
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, IBS is a disorder characterized most commonly by cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating, with constipation and diarrhea as secondary symptoms. However, symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people with IBS have horrible constipation while others sufferer from diarrhea. Some IBS patients even alternate between episodes of constipation and diarrhea.

The cause of IBS is unknown. It has been hypothesized that the normal contractions of the bowel muscles are either overactive and strong (resulting in diarrhea) or underactive and weak (resulting in constipation). It has also been hypothesized that certain foods, stress, and hormones can play a role in triggering the development of IBS. Some people who have a history of recent viral or bacterial infection in the intestinal tract can develop IBS after the infection resolves. Studies have shown that people who have a parent or sibling with IBS are at increased risk of developing the condition. Fortunately, IBS does not result in inflammation or changes in the bowel tissue and does not increase your risk of cancer of the colon and/or rectum.

If you think you may have IBS, seeing your doctor is the first step. There are no specific tests for IBS, although there are diagnostic tests that can be performed to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. These tests may include stool sample testing, blood tests (to rule out sensitivity to gluten), lactose intolerance tests, x-ray imaging to rule out other causes, or colonoscopy to actually look at the inside lining of the colon. A thorough evaluation of your complete medical history, including your symptoms and a physical examination, will also aid in diagnosis of IBS by your physician.

Treatment in mild cases of IBS focuses on controlling the symptoms and can be done by managing stress and making changes in your diet and lifestyle: drinking plenty of fluids, exercising regularly. If the symptoms are moderate to severe, your physician may recommend the following: fiber supplements or laxatives for constipation (although one must be careful as laxatives can become habit forming), antidiarrheal medications such as Imodium, elimination of high-gas foods such as salads and raw fruits and vegetables, antispasm medications, antidepressants (to address depression that can be experienced with IBS), antibiotics, and counseling. Two medications, Lotronex and Amitiza, are approved to treat certain (often severe) cases of IBS and must be prescribed by specialized physicians. Alternative therapies like acupuncture, hypnosis, probiotics, and meditation may also alleviate symptoms.

If you are at all concerned that you may have IBS, please see a medical professional for evaluation. And to all my readers, please, stay healthy and be strong!

Have a question for DrSugar? You can send to me via private message here, and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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