Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a much more common gastrointestinal disorder than many realize. It is estimated that 15-20% of the American population (approximately 55 million people) are affected by IBS. The most common symptoms are changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between the two. Abdominal pain, increased urgency of bowel movements, abdominal bloating, and excess gas are also common with IBS. Other names for IBS are Spastic Colon, nervous stomach, irritable colon, and Spastic Colitis.
While the general understanding is that abnormal communication between the nervous system and the muscles of the bowel is the trigger of IBS, the exact reason for this abnormal communication is not known. Sufferers of IBS tend to have heightened sensitivity in the bowel, which can manifest as irritation and create the pain, urgency, and feeling of incomplete evacuation. The miscommunication is what results in the bowel moving too quickly, causing diarrhea, or too slowly, causing constipation. While studies have shown that stress can contribute to IBS, is not a cause of the disorder. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is more often diagnosed in women, although it should be noted that it is common in men as well.
It is important to note that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Spastic Colon) is not a life-threatening condition. It can, however, cause great pain and discomfort to its sufferers, and because there are a number of more serious disorders which affect the gastrointestinal region, IBS should be diagnosed by a board-certified gastroenterologist in order to ensure that a more serious disorder or disease is not at work.
Advances in treatment options for IBS have come a long way in recent years. As mentioned above, reduction of stress factors in one's life can help to ease the severity of IBS. The assurance that a confirmed diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome can bring that it is not a more serious issue can help to relieve the stress brought on by the day-to-day symptoms. For mild to moderate cases, changes in diet can go a long way. Generally, meals which are high in fat, fried foods, caffeine, certain sugars, and alcohol can contribute to diarrhea, cramping, and discomfort with IBS. Keeping track of which foods bring on these symptoms and avoiding them will help. The addition of foods high in soluble fiber can help as well, although you should consult your physician on the best method of introduction of these foods to your diet. More severe cases can be managed with medication, which your gastroenterologist can prescribe.
How Associates in Gastroenterology can help:
Our concern is first and foremost for your health and comfort. For this reason, we carefully study our patients' medical histories and begin with consultation rather than immediate physical examinations or endoscopic procedures. Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Spastic Colon, and more importantly, ruling out a more severe gastrointestinal disease, can often be accomplished with a minor physical exam. We understand that any medical procedure can bring anxiety, and we only prescribe them as necessary to ensure that our patients remain in good health. Please call us today if you have concerns that you may be suffering from IBS or another gastrointestinal disorder. You may also visit our FAQ page here, or for directions to our office, please visit here.