Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gut disease which affects about 25 to 45 million people in the US alone. While the cause isn’t known exactly, the symptoms may come in several different forms which come and go.
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
The IBS is a functional disorder of the digestive system. It is a functional disorder because a person suffering from IBS has no abnormality in the structure of the gut, even on a microscopic level, but the person can continue to suffer from this condition.
IBS affects young adults but is more common in women as about 2 out of 3 people suffering from IBS are women.
Irritable bowel symptoms
There are several irritable bowel symptoms, some of which are listed down below.
Pain and discomfort
You may feel pain or discomfort in several parts of your abdomen which tend to come and go. While the length of the pain can vary notably, the pain often subsides when you pass stools or gas. The pain occurs like a spasm or colic, which is a severe pinching pain because of gas in your stomach.
Your stomach or other parts of your gut may bloat up or swell because it gets filled up with gas. This occurs time to time, thanks to which, you tend to burp or pass the wind more than usual. This could also lead to an occasional urgent need to pass stools.
Change in bowel habits
Your bowel habits can change in many different ways in an irritable bowel syndrome. Some people experience periods of diarrhea while others might experience constipation. Sometimes, you can experience alternating bouts of both diarrhea and constipation.
Sometimes your stools can become extremely small and fall as pellets. Sometimes your stools can become watery, an excess of which could lead to dehydration and weakness. Sometimes, your stools can also get mixed with mucus.
You may feel like you haven’t completely emptied your bowels and this can lead to urgencies where you feel like you need to get to the toilet immediately. While the morning rush is common, the urgency to pass stools over and over again occurs shortly after waking up or having breakfast.
Other irritable bowel symptoms
These symptoms don’t occur along with the other irritable bowel symptoms and may occur occasionally. Some of them are:
- Nauseous: you may constantly feel the need to vomit because of the excessive gas in your stomach.
- A headache: sometimes stomach upsets like the IBS can lead to a headache or even a migraine.
- Belching: You may burp or let out gas from your mouth.
- Poor or loss of appetite: you may fill up quickly when eating because of the gas present in your stomach. You may also experience loss of hunger.
- Fatigue: chronic fatigue can be linked to IBS but is different for different people.
- Muscle pain and backache: although they look unrelated, IBS can bloat up gas in your gut which affects some muscles and your lower back, causing pain and discomfort.
- Heartburn: Because of acid reflux (spilling of the acid from your stomach into your esophagus), you may feel a burning sensation in your chest, which is sometimes accompanied with pain.
- Bladder symptoms: Although both the digestive system and the bladder have entirely different functions, they are situated nearby and share a common goal, the storage of waste and its excretion. Thanks to this, people with IBS also exhibit signs of an overactive bladder.
Causes and treatments
As mentioned earlier, the reasons why IBS occurs is not clear. It may be because of the overactivity of some or all parts of your digestive system. One or more of the following may play a role in causing IBS:
- Overactivity of the muscles or nerves in your gut, which may be in turn because of overactivity of the signals sent by the brain. Stress and emotional distress can also become a cause as most people relate the beginning of these symptoms to a stressful event in their lives.
- Some foods may be intolerable to your gut.
- Some bacteria or virus that have infected your digestive system can also cause the above irritable bowel symptoms.
Since the cause is almost unknown, it is not possible to give this condition a perfect treatment. However, there are a few things that you can do to help reduce the irritable bowel symptoms.
- Exercise: With regular exercise, you can keep these symptoms at bay and keep your gut healthy.
- Managing stress: If you’re someone who takes a lot of stress, try relaxing to help reduce stress. You can also seek professional help to fight this.
- Follow a diet: Make sure you keep a tab of all the types of food that aggravate this condition and avoid eating them.
Although there is no definite cure, you can easily keep yourself warned about the symptoms and take care of your diet to help reduce the irritable bowel symptoms.