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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects millions of people. The term Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a catch-all phrase for a variety of gastrointestinal irregularities and disturbances. It is often difficult for doctors to pinpoint what causes IBS in individuals suffering from a variety of symptoms. Hence, treatment protocols are not straight forward and one size does not fit all.
What triggers IBS differs from person to person. And, IBS can be episodic. A certain food might set it off. Stress, lack of adequate sleep, food intolerances, and an imbalance in the gut microbiome can also cause symptoms to flare. We’ll take a look at the most common symptoms of Irritable Bowel, what might possibly cause them, and some ideas for treating symptoms.
1. Abdominal and Lower Back Pain
Abdominal pain is likely the most common symptom that sends a patient to their gastroenterologist’s office. Often, this pain radiates into the back. This is the first sign that something isn’t right in the intestines.
It is important to note that the gut is home to more serotonin than any other part of the body, including the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood by communicating with the brain. It is also critical for the proper function of the intestines, especially the large intestine. If your intestines are lacking inadequate levels of serotonin the perception of pain may be more pronounced.
The pain is sometimes only temporarily relieved by taking NSAID pain relievers and may even become more intense after the medication wears off because NSAIDs can actually irritate the intestinal lining. Some people find relief from the pain by having a bowel movement. Others find that a heating pad may help. In extreme cases, a doctor may prescribe a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant.
The key is to figure out what causes abdominal and back pain related to gastrointestinal distress. Other symptoms may provide more answers and lead to a better treatment plan.
Many IBS sufferers experience constipation (IBSC). That is basically poor bowel motility that causes one to not be able to produce a bowel movement more than 2 or 3 times a week. This is very unhealthy as fecal matter will build up in the colon and cause bloating, gas, and pain.
Stagnant intestinal matter has a tendency to absorb more water causing it to swell and become even more difficult to pass. Straining to pass swollen stool can lead to hemorrhoids and bleeding anal fissures. Abdominal and anal pain can be debilitating. The only relief is to have a bowel movement.
If your IBS manifests predominantly with constipation, it is important to hydrate adequately with pure water to keep the bowels lubricated. It is also important to consume more dietary fiber and to exercise regularly to get things moving. You might consider taking a psyllium husk dietary supplement that will absorb the excess water in the stool. If all that fails, your doctor may suggest a laxative or even an enema, neither of which should be relied on daily.
Diarrhea predominant IBS (IBSD) manifests in an average of 12 bowel movements a week. Some IBSD sufferers will experience successive bowel movements that continue until the large intestine is empty. This constant motility is often diagnosed as a spastic colon. The rapid movement of the colon can produce a sudden and uncontrollable urge to “go”. This can be devastating if you are not near a bathroom.
The diarrhea is often watery and loose. It may contain mucus and even undigested food matter. This can quickly wipe out the beneficial bacteria needed for overall health, resulting in an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, such as yeast. It also can be quite irritating to the rectum and cause annoying itching.
You might be tempted to reach for an over-the-counter diarrhea medication just to stop the madness. This should not be relied on indefinitely. A better option might be activated charcoal that will absorb water and bind toxins in the gut. It can help to firm up the stool. It is recommended that persons with IBSD consume probiotic-rich foods or take a probiotic supplement to reintroduce healthy organisms back into the intestines. This can rebalance the gut microbiome.
4. Bloating and Gas
Most persons with IBS suffer from abdominal distention or bloating and excessive flatulence. This sometimes occurs while you are sleeping when the gut is working on digesting your meals from the day. You may find that you are awakened by pain and a feeling of fullness that is slightly relieved by expelling gas. It can be embarrassing if the build-up of gas happens during the day.
Bloating and gas may be the result of eating foods that you are intolerant to. These often include gluten, dairy, and sugar. The first thing you need to do is to identify the offending foods. This can be achieved through an elimination diet. A low FODMAPS diet reduces the intake of foods that are high in certain carbohydrates and sugars. For immediate and temporary relief of gas, the homeopathic remedy Carbo Vegetabilis can be helpful.
Living with IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome can disrupt your quality of life. The symptoms may prevent you from enjoying getting together with friends and family, traveling, or even working at a job. If your symptoms continue to persist after trying a variety of therapies, it is a good idea to visit your doctor to rule out a more serious health issue.
Living with IBS can be challenging. However, with proper hydration, dietary modifications, reduction of stress, incorporating more exercise, and getting plenty of sleep can help you to manage or even alleviate the symptoms.