Updated: Nov 22, 2015
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may cause much discomfort in the large intestine. But it is not considered a serious health risk. It also does not cause more serious diseases such as intestinal bleeding, inflammatory bowel disease or cancer. IBS can also irritate, aggravate and inflame hemorrhoids which is a separate medical condition.
What causes IBS? No one knows for sure. There is not one identifiable organic factor. However clinical studies and research show symptoms are likely caused by various internal and external stimuli.
Those sensitive to IBS may be influenced by weakened immune system, reproductive hormones, diet, environment, mental health and lifestyle choice. Where 1 out of every 5 adults experience IBS or ~58 million Americans. The condition is more prominent in women starting as early as 20 years of age. And for all it is typically experienced under the age of 45. Women also tend to be two times more likely than men to become symptomatic via stimuli response.
Common triggers associated with IBS discomforts are thought to be mentally, environmentally and genetically stimulated. For instance, if IBS runs in a family, suspect genetics and environment may influence the same stimuli response within offspring. Whereas environment may cause stress, anxiety, depression and where poor diet, drug use and sedentary lifestyle cause similar IBS symptoms. It is then reasonable to assume like-cessation and treatment, or change in lifestyle may alleviate the condition.
Internal and external environment stimuli influence the digestive food coordination process. The intestines, rectum and colon have reactive triggers that are piped to the brain and are partly controlled by the autonomic nervous system [much like the heart and the lungs]. However the signals from the brain to the intestines are also lined with muscle that work in a rhythmic contraction and relaxation coordination to move food through the body.
Environmental stressors may cause intestine function for some to contract too little, or too much whereas the following discomfort conditions result. Removing too little water through the intestinal lining causes diarrhea. And when too much water is removed constipation occurs. It is when arithmetic muscle coordination incrementally increases within the large intestine so do the IBS symptoms. Either condition can cause cramping, bloating and gas felt within the stomach and accompanied to varying degree of either condition. Since we’re all wired a little bit different not all of us react the same way to stimuli sensitivity triggers.
Another common IBS trigger occurs when too many bad bacteria buildup within the intestines. Where antibiotics or probiotics may help to alleviate this problem.
IBS “IS NOT” considered a disease. It can be more or less thought of as an aggravated condition triggered by lifestyle, environment or relationship stressors that interrupt the connected mind-body digestive coordination process. The most common stressors include: undiagnosed mental health disorders, relationship and employer stress, anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive behavior, etc. Or where other behavioral habits, illness and disease and drug use stimulate and trigger IBS-like symptoms.
Common treatment for diarrhea and constipation,
Prescription for Diarrhea: Lotronex, Prevalite, Colestid or Welchol. Over-the-counter drugs: loperamide (Imodium), or Kaopectate could help.
Prescription for constipation: Zelnorm or a laxative such as milk of magnesia, etc. Over-the counter drugs: fiber supplements like Metamucil or Citrucel could help.
Be sure to ask for specifics of IBS treatment from treating physicians. And when purchasing an over-the-counter drug be sure to speak with a pharmacist to determine best product and application use. If either prescription or over-the-counter products are not used correctly, they can cause other health problems. Alternative IBS treatments includes: herbs, acupuncture, massage, meditation and hypnosis.
“IBS has no cures. You must manage what triggers the symptoms!”
1 Make a medical appointment with gastroenterologist and prepare in advance. For instance, keep a journal of the foods you eat, how much of suspected food irritants, daily exercise and any drugs taken. Then be mindful of what may likely stimulate the IBS episodes, time of day and how severe the symptoms feel. E.g., on a scale of 1-10. Ten being the worst.
2 Reduce large meal intake, which can cause cramping, and diarrhea [try consuming smaller and more frequent meals], slow down when you eat. And stop chewing gum, both results in too much gas (air).
3 Check risk warnings on medicines prescribed. Ask your doctor about questionable medications.
4 Remove chocolate, caffeine, milk-dairy products [determine if lactose intolerant], bread [determine if gluten intolerant] and alcohol from diet. Try removing one at a time to see if symptoms improve. Log this information in your daily journal.
5 Remove stress, conflict and other emotional upsetting factors from environment.
6 Drink 6-8 glasses of water/day, especially for diarrhea. This seems counter intuitive, but it will make you feel better by flushing your system. And you must rehydrate when losing too much water within the body. Don’t drink carbonated drinks. It’s a no brainer to drink more water when constipated.
7 Try consuming low fat & higher in carbohydrate foods, such as pasta, rice and “whole grain breads & cereals, unless you have “celiac disease. This disease mimics IBS… If you are diagnosed with this, your body can’t digest gluten (wheat, rye, barley, etc.,) a blood test can rule out if you have celiac disease).
8 Increase fruits and vegetable consumption within your diet.
9 Get enough exercise and sleep.
Bolen, Barbara, Dr. “What Is IBS and Do You Have It?” About.com Health. About.com, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
Cunha, John P., DO, FACOEP. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS: Symptoms and Diet Info.” MedicineNet. MedicineNet, Inc., 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
Staff. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 21 July 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
Staff. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)-Topic Overview.” WebMD. WebMD, LLC. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2015 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.