Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex condition that occurs when there is a disorder in the intestines. When a person is suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, they may face bloating and cramping in the stomach, diarrhea, or constipation. Irritable bowel syndrome is a lasting problem, but the symptoms can be reduced with the right treatment.
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a life-threatening condition; however, if treatments are not started at the right time, it can cause complications. The complications include colon conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and colon cancer. Despite not being a life-threatening condition, irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can cause severe pain or discomfort making one skip school or work or cause disruptions in one’s daily routine.
There are no definite causes of irritable bowel syndrome. It is believed that the causes may differ from one person to another. Irritable bowel syndrome is caused is when the signals between the brain and the digestive system are misinterpreted. Irritable bowel syndrome can also be caused due to eating certain foods, taking too much stress, and having anxiety. People who suffer from IBS usually have sensitive intestines.
There are often certain tests that doctors conduct to diagnose IBS as there are no set lab tests that can diagnose IBS. First there are some tests that are run to examine several conditions that include food intolerances or allergies, certain infections, enzyme deficiencies, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. These conditions are first ruled out to conclude irritable bowel syndrome.
After ruling out the other conditions, doctors conduct other tests to determine whether the patient has irritable bowel syndrome:
- Colonoscopy to identify any signs of inflammation or blockage in the intestines
- Upper endoscopy (in case of indigestion or heartburn)
- Stool tests to check if there is any blood or infection
- Blood tests to look for anemia or thyroid problems
There is no set treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. There are multiple treatments that can work for a patient depending on their individual condition. Doctors usually ask the patients to incorporate diet and lifestyle changes. Some of those changes are mentioned below.
- Lower or no caffeine (including coffee, tea, and soda)
- Increase in fiber diet that includes more consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains
- Drinking plenty of water every day (at least 3-4 liters)
- No consumption of alcohol and no smoking
- Taking less stress by relaxing, exercising, and practicing yoga
- Limiting milk and cheese consumption
- Eating smaller meals as opposed to big meals
These are some of many diet and lifestyle changes that are required for every irritable bowel syndrome patient to incorporate in their lives to achieve better health that is free from IBS and any other medical condition. Patients are asked to maintain a record of food they are consuming to identify the specific foods that affect the digestive system.