What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

At some stage in their lives at least 58 million Americans have cramp like abdominal pain, diarrhoea and or constipation. They have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. These symptoms, however, vary in individual patients and also from day to day. The President of the IBS Self Help and Support Group, Jeffrey Roberts, said, IBS is an illness which seems to strike people down.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that are present for 12 weeks in twelve month period. It is characterised by abdominal pain and must include at least two of the following three facts. The pain is relieved by defecation, associated with change in the frequency of stool and change in the appearance of stools.

Experts remain baffled and still do not know the clear cause or what exactly Irritable Bowel Syndrome is. From research, we know that in IBS, the large gut is more sensitive than some one without IBS. In addition hormonal changes may be a trigger and explains why 80% of IBS sufferers are women. It can develop following a severe episode of gastroenteritis. In addition here is a higher incidence of physical and sexual abuse in the IBS group. Flare up of Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms can be triggered by stress and certain foods.

Although Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a distressing condition with abdominal pains, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and rectal pain, there is no abnormality of the gut. In fact it is not IBS if anything was found during investigation.

If you have symptoms of IBS, see your doctor for a diagnosis. Your doctor is likely to do tests to exclude serious diseases before a diagnosis is made. With the Rome Criteria, a diagnosis can be made with minimal diagnostic test. However, if you have bleeding from the rectum, loss of appetite, weight loss, anaemia or symptoms developing after fifty years of age, you should see your doctor very soon because you will need addition investigation.

A common question IBS sufferers ask is if it is all in his or her head. The answer is no but the brain does have a role in when and how severe symptoms develop. Experts talk about the brain-gut connection and they believe it has a vital role in IBS. Serotonin is also important. Low blood levels are found in constipation predominant IBS and high level in diarrhoea predominant IBS.

We know that in Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there is no abnormality in the large gut, it is not a cancer and will not lead to cancer or other gastrointestinal disease and it is very common. It is estimated that 20% of the global population has or had IBS at some time in their lives.

It is very difficult for IBS patients to come to terms with this condition especially when they are told no one knows the true cause, no one treatment works for everyone and that there is no cure. Depending on the type of IBS you have, dietary changes, behavioural therapy, stress management and various alternative treatments options are available.

Some IBS patients have severe abdominal pains soon after eating certain foods. This may be because it is a large meal and this can trigger strong gastro-colic reflex. This a very strong peristaltic contraction in response to stretching of the stomach. This can be very painful for a patient with IBS. It is better to have smaller meals and eat frequently. It is important that you do not avoid foods. You need important nutrients to remain healthy.