Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
About one in five adults is living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Also referred to as spastic colon, IBS usually affects people between the ages of 25 and 45. Twice as many women suffer from the condition as men.
The symptoms vary in severity and duration from person to person. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both.
The precise cause of IBS isn’t known. Factors that appear to play a role include:
- Slowed or spastic movements of the colon.
- Abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive system.
- Severe infection.
- Early life stress.
- Changes in gut microbes.
Many people have occasional signs and symptoms of IBS. But you’re more likely to have the syndrome if you:
- Are young. IBS occurs more frequently in people under age 50.
- Are female. IBS is more common among women. Estrogene therapy before or after menopause also is a risk factor for IBS.
- Have a family history of IBS. Genes may play a role, as may shared factors in a family’s environment or a combination of genes and environment.
- Have anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. A history of sexual, physical or emotional abuse also might be a risk factor.
Symptoms of IBS can be triggered by:
- Food. The role of food allergy or intolerance in IBS isn’t fully understood. A true food allergy rarely causes IBS. But many people have worse IBS symptoms when they eat or drink certain foods or beverages, including wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk and carbonated drinks.
- Stress. Most people with IBS experience worse or more-frequent signs and symptoms during periods of increased stress. But while stress may aggravate symptoms, it doesn’t cause them.
Home remedies for IBS
Certain home remedies or lifestyle changes may help to relieve your IBS symptoms without the use of medication. Examples of these lifestyle changes include:
- Participating in regular physical exercise
- Don’t smoke.
- Minimizing stress
- Eating smaller meals
- Add fiber to your diet with foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
- Limit how much milk or cheese you eat.
- Cutting back on caffeinated beverages that stimulate the intestines
- Drink at least three to four glasses of water per day.
- Avoiding deep-fried or spicy foods
- Taking probiotics (“good” bacteria normally found in the intestines) to help relieve gas and bloating
Managing your diet when you have IBS may take a little extra time but is often worth the effort. Modifying amounts or eliminating certain foods such as dairy, fried foods, indigestible sugars, and beans may help to reduce different symptoms. For some people, adding spices and herbs such as ginger, peppermint, and chamomile has helped to reduce some IBS symptoms.
Only a small number of people with IBS have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or other signs or symptoms of IBS. They may indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. More serious signs and symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Diarrhoea at night
- Rectal bleeding
- Iron deficiency anaemia
- Unexplained vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement
IBS isn’t life-threatening, and it doesn’t make you more likely to get other colon conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or colon cancer. But it can be a long-lasting problem that changes how you live your life. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term.
Disclaimer: All content on the The Local Choice Pharmacy is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health advice.