Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a very common intestinal disorder. About 15% of all American adults have symptoms of IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome is an intestinal disorder that can cause abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits.

The walls of the intestines have muscles that contract and relax to push digested food through. These contractions are helpful for having a bowel movement and are partially controlled by the nervous system, but also by the food we eat and hormones in the blood. This is why some people feel the urge to have a bowel movement about an hour after eating. The urge is stronger after meals that are high in fat. Normal bowel function can vary from 3 bowel movements a day to 3 per week.

A bowel movement is considered normal if it is well formed, contains no blood and is passed easily without pain or cramping.
IBS is described as Abdominal discomfort or pain that has these features :
1. in frequency of stool and /or Associated with a change in form or appearance of stool.
2. No evidence of inflammatory, anatomic, metabolic or other process that explains the symptoms
3. Normal growth and a normal physical exam. A nutritional history, assessing for adequacy of fiber in those with constipation as well as ingestion of sugars such as sorbitol and fructose in those with diarrhea is useful.

Common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include: abdominal cramps, bloating, gas and diarrhea or constipation or both. IBS does NOT include blood in the stool, weight loss, fever, arthritis, delayed puberty, or continuous pain. They could be signs of more serious colon diseases.

Symptoms of IBS can vary, depending on what the patient eats, how much the patient eats, emotional stress. It is important for patients with IBS to keep an accurate record of what makes their symptoms worse. Some foods known to cause symptoms of IBS include MILK products, FATTY foods, Chocolate, caffeine and alcohol.

There are currently no known causes of IBS. Factors that seem to produce symptoms of IBS include diet, emotional stress and hormones. IBS is diagnosed after other diseases that could cause similar symptoms are ruled out. A detailed medical history and physical exam are done first. Stool samples may be taken to check for blood and infections. A complete blood count and a metabolic panel are ordered to rule out inflammatory and metabolic causes.

Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome includes a variety of lifestyle changes. Decreasing emotional stress is usually a first step in reducing symptoms of IBS.

Changing the diet by limiting dairy products, chocolate, fatty foods, coffee and alcohol is often helpful. Eating smaller meals that are higher in fiber may help as well. Fiber can make stool more regular and help to prevent cramping. Eating more vegetables adds a lot of fiber to the diet.

Medications that relax the muscles of the intestines may also be given.

Summary- IBS is a common intestinal disease. Diet changes and stress reduction as well as medication can help patients with IBS lead normal lives.

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