April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, so let us talk about IBS.
What is it?
IBS is a chronic functional disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits (either constipation or diarrhea) in the absence of other underlying GI disorders. Other common symptoms include bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps. It may also be called spastic colon, irritable colon, nervous bowel, or visceral hypersensitivity.
There is no specific test that shows IBS. It is a diagnosis based on meeting the following criteria: at least 1 day a week over the past 3 months of recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort associated with two or more of the following:
- Improvement with defecation (bowel movement); and/or
- Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool; and/or
- Onset associated with a change in form (appearance) of the stool.
There are different types of IBS:
- IBS – C (predominately constipation- Bristol stool 1 and 2)
- IBS – D (predominately diarrhea- Bristol stool 6 and 7)
- IBS – Mixed (with both diarrhea and constipation)
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Do not be afraid to talk to your doctor about your GI symptoms. IBS is the most common condition seen by Gastroenterologists and affects at least 1 in every 10 Americans. It is more common in women but also affects men. It can occur at any age.
Your Gastroenterologist will ask you about your symptoms and make sure you do not have any symptoms to suggest a more concerning diagnosis.
What is NOT IBS?
Although IBS can be severe and significantly impact your quality of life, it does not lead to colon cancer. In addition, it does not cause damage to your intestines as seen with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease). In certain cases, diagnostic tests may be necessary to exclude one of these alternative diagnoses, such as lab work, imaging, or a colonoscopy.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you are experiencing blood in your stool, unintentional weight loss, or pain that wakes you from sleep.
How is IBS treated?
There is no specific cure for IBS, but there are multiple options to manage this disease. Fiber supplements and probiotics may be helpful. Medications such as antispasmodics can help reduce abdominal pain and diarrhea. Miralax is an excellent and safe medication to help manage chronic constipation. There are also prescription medications for constipation.
The number one thing in a patient’s control is DIET. A healthy, high-fiber, low-fat diet can markedly improve IBS symptoms. Dietary regimens are available to increase fiber, decrease gas-producing foods, and decrease other harmful foods.
What causes IBS?
Though the cause of IBS is not well understood, it is clear that GI symptoms are much more intense in patients with IBS. The gut-brain signals are more active. It is what “visceral hypersensitivity” refers to. Therefore, certain medications that may reduce anxiety and stress have shown to be very helpful in managing IBS.
As you can see, symptoms of IBS can be variable over time, they may fluctuate, and no one regimen works for everyone. Having a close ongoing relationship with your healthcare provider is essential.
Please contact Digestive Health Specialist for a consultation so we can begin helping you with this challenging disease.
Do you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above?
By: Dr. Murat Akdaamr
Learn more about her here: https://digestivehealth.ws/provider/murat-akdamar-md/
Digestive Health Specialists, PA is here to help if you, or someone you know, would like more information, or if you are experiencing any digestive health symptoms and would like further evaluation. Feel free to give us a call at 336-768-6211 or fill the form below.