what are the first signs of irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects bowel function with symptoms that include abdominal pain or discomfort, which may feel like abdominal cramping.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects bowel function and is characterized by symptoms that are primarily associated with digestive discomfort.

The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain or discomfort, pain changes, and how frequently you have bowel movements. IBS pain or discomfort may feel like abdominal cramping (mostly lower abdomen or flank) and include at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Pain or discomfort will subside after you have a bowel movement
  • Notice a difference in the frequency with which you have bowel movements
  • Notice a difference in the appearance of your stools

IBS is a chronic disorder, which means it lasts for a long period, often for years. The symptoms, however, may come and go.

You may have IBS if:

  • For the past three months, you have experienced symptoms at least three times per month.
  • Your symptoms began at least six months ago.

Some people with IBS only have diarrhea or constipation, while others experience both symptoms or have diarrhea at times and constipation at others. People frequently experience symptoms shortly after eating a meal.

Other symptoms of IBS include:

  • Bloating
  • Feeling that you have not finished a bowel movement
  • Whitish mucus in your stool
  • Women with IBS often have more symptoms during their menstrual periods

IBS symptoms may overlap with those of other serious conditions. If you experience any gastrointestinal symptoms that cause you concern, contact your doctor right away.

6 causes of irritable bowel syndrome

There is no definitive cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) currently. It is assumed that IBS is caused by an abnormality in gut physiological processes. The person's gastrointestinal motility may have been altered, and the gut-brain axis may have been disrupted.

Some of the most likely causes of IBS are:

  1. Movement of food
    • A change in food movement through the gastrointestinal tract could be the cause of a variety of IBS symptoms.
    • Food movement speed can be either too slow or too fast. Changes in this movement cause changes in bowel function.
    • Additionally, the fast and slow movement of food affects the digestive process, resulting in bloating and gas formation.
  2. Muscular dysfunction
    • Food moves through the gastrointestinal tract via peristaltic movement, which is controlled by muscles in the inner lining. IBS is caused by both weak and strong muscular functions.
    • Diarrhea is caused by having strong muscular functions for an extended period.
    • Similarly, constipation or hard, dry stools result from bloating and poor muscular contraction.
  3. Altered neural stimulation
    • Chemical substances, such as serotonin and gastrin, regulate the nervous connection between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain (gut-brain axis).
    • Abnormalities in the nervous system cause more discomfort than minor changes in the gastrointestinal tract, such as gas formation or rapid food movement, which can cause cramping and diarrhea.
  4. Severe infection
    • Severe infections may trigger IBS symptoms, such as diarrhea.
    • Bacteria or viruses may be to blame for the infection.
  5. Disrupted gut microflora
    • Many cases of IBS are characterized by a decrease in the number of beneficial bacteria in the intestine (dysbiosis).
    • This results in the dominance of disease-causing bacteria and the infection of the intestine.
  6. Intestinal inflammation
    • When compared to a normal and healthy person, the gastrointestinal tract of an IBS patient has increased immune cell invasion.
    • Pain and diarrhea are caused by an increase in immune cells and inflammation.

QUESTION

What is irritable bowel syndrome or IBS? See Answer

7 risk factors of irritable bowel syndrome

Several risk factors contribute to the occurrence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which include:

  1. Food allergy:
    • Food allergies aggravate IBS symptoms, especially an allergy to a specific food.
    • IBS symptoms may worsen if you consume cabbage, citrus fruits, wheat, milk, or carbonated beverages.
  2. Hormones: Hormones are thought to be a risk factor as well. This belief is because women have a higher incidence of IBS than men, and symptoms worsen during the menstrual period.
  3. Stress: IBS is not caused by stress, but prolonged stress harms the quality of life by exacerbating IBS symptoms.
  4. Gender: Females are two times more likely than males to develop IBS. Estrogen therapy raises the risk even more.
  5. Family history: Genes are thought to play a role in the development of IBS. People with a family history of IBS are at a higher risk.
  6. Mental disorders: IBS symptoms are exacerbated by depression and anxiety. Abuse of any kind, whether physical, sexual, or emotional, raises the risk of IBS.
  7. Age: IBS typically affects people younger than 50 years.

While IBS can be excruciatingly painful, it does not cause other health problems or damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

How is IBS diagnosed?

Because there are no definitive physical symptoms that can exclusively point to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the diagnosis is more of a process of ruling out other disorders that could be causing the symptoms.

The doctor will recommend a few tests based on the severity of your condition, which may include imaging and laboratory tests.

The imaging tests suggested by the doctor may include:

The laboratory tests include:

5 treatment options for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that has no permanent cure. The treatment plan is intended to alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life.

The following can help manage IBS:

  1. Pain relievers: Medications for the treatment of neuropathic pain.
  2. Laxatives: One of the symptoms of IBS is constipation. To relieve constipation, the doctor may prescribe laxatives, such as magnesium hydroxide or polyethylene glycol. Fiber supplements, in addition to laxatives, may be prescribed.
  3. Anti-diarrhea medications: Doctors may prescribe anti-diarrhea medications, such as loperamide, to decrease diarrheal episodes in IBS patients.
  4. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants: These drugs are prescribed if you are suffering from depression or anxiety along with other symptoms.
  5. Dietary recommendations: A customized diet plan designed by a qualified dietician under the supervision of an expert gastroenterologist is strongly advised.
    • Include high-fiber foods in your diet
    • Drink plenty of water
    • Consume a low-fat diet because a high-fat diet contains less fiber
    • Avoid foods that may cause allergic reactions and keep a food diary to determine which foods triggered your symptoms
    • Avoid foods that cause gas formation, such as cabbage, broccoli, raw vegetables, and carbonated beverages
    • Avoid gluten-containing grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley
    • Avoid foods that are easily fermented by the digestive system and contain sugars, such as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP).

SLIDESHOW

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions See Slideshow

4 preventive measures for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be avoided by avoiding the triggers that cause it.

Some of the preventive measures include:

  1. Boosting the immune system: IBS is caused by infection and inflammation of the digestive tract. To prevent infection, the immune system should be maintained at an optimum level.
  2. Maintaining normal gut flora: Probiotics should be used to maintain gut flora balance if necessary.
  3. Avoiding triggers: Steps should be taken to avoid triggers, such as allergic foods, depression, and anger.
  4. Managing stress: Stress can either cause or worsen IBS. Meditation, yoga, or counseling sessions should be used to manage stress.

Can calming therapies help with symptoms of IBS?

There is a known link between the brain and the gut, and stress can certainly aggravate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

  • Some may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, and many find it beneficial to practice relaxation techniques, such as positive imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
  • Yoga and other forms of physical activity may help alleviate IBS symptoms and improve your quality of life.
  • According to research, those who engaged in vigorous physical activity three to five days per week had fewer physical and psychological symptoms of IBS.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing is another soothing technique that can be used anywhere and at any time to help relieve pain and stress.

IBS is a long-term condition that affects most people. You may, however, have long spells with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

When symptoms flare up, treatment can often help alleviate them. In a small percentage of cases, symptoms resolve permanently.

IBS does not reduce life expectancy. Besides, it does not cause bowel cancer and gut blockages, or other serious conditions.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/29/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

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