9 Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) refers to several long-term conditions that involve inflammation of the digestive tract, or gut. IBS treatment often requires a multi-faceted approach. At South OC PT, through education, manual therapy, biofeedback, and individualized exercise programs, our specialists can assist you in learning how to decrease and manage your symptoms.
Wondering if this might be what you have going on? Keep reading – and then call us for a consult. You do NOT have to live this way!
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects between 6–18% of people worldwide.
This condition involves changes in frequency or form of bowel movements and lower abdominal pain
Diet, stress, poor sleep, and changes in gut bacteria may all trigger symptoms.
However, triggers are different for each person, making it difficult to name specific foods or stressors that everyone with the disorder should avoid.
This article will discuss the most common symptoms of IBS and what to do if you suspect you have it.
1. Pain and Cramping
Abdominal pain is the most common symptom and a key factor in diagnosis.
Normally, your gut and brain work together to control digestion. This happens via hormones, nerves and signals released by the good bacteria that live in your gut.
In IBS, these cooperative signals become distorted, leading to uncoordinated and painful tension in the muscles of the digestive tract.
This pain usually occurs in the lower abdomen or the entire abdomen but is less likely to be in the upper abdomen alone. Pain typically decreases following a bowel movement.
Diet modifications, such as a diet low in FODMAPs, may improve pain and other symptoms.
Other treatments include bowel relaxants like peppermint oil, cognitive behavior therapy and hypnotherapy.
For pain that doesn’t respond to these changes, a gastroenterologist can help you find a medication specifically proven to ease IBS pain.
SUMMARY: The most common symptom of IBS is lower abdominal pain that is less severe after a bowel movement. Dietary modifications, stress-reducing therapies and certain medications can help reduce pain.
Diarrhea-predominant IBS is one of the three main types of the disorder. It affects roughly one-third of patients with IBS.
A study of 200 adults found that those with diarrhea-predominant IBS had, on average, 12 bowel movements weekly — more than twice the amount of adults without IBS.
Accelerated bowel transit in IBS can also result in a sudden, immediate urge to have a bowel movement. Some patients describe this as a significant source of stress, even avoiding some social situations for fear of a sudden onset of diarrhea.
Additionally, stool in the diarrhea-predominant type tends to be loose and watery and may contain mucus.
SUMMARY: Frequent, loose stools are common in IBS, and are a symptom of the diarrhea-predominant type. Stools may also contain mucus.
Although it seems counterintuitive, IBS can cause constipation as well as diarrhea.
Constipation-predominant IBS is the most common type, affecting nearly 50% of people with IBS.
Altered communication between the brain and bowel may speed up or slow down the normal transit time of stool. When transit time slows, the bowel absorbs more water from stool, and it becomes more difficult to pass.
Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week.
“Functional” constipation describes chronic constipation not explained by another disease. It is not related to IBS and is very common. Functional constipation differs from IBS in that it is generally not painful.
In contrast, constipation in IBS includes abdominal pain that eases with bowel movements.
Constipation in IBS also often causes a sensation of an incomplete bowel movement. This leads to unnecessary straining.
Along with the usual treatments for IBS, exercise, drinking more water, eating soluble fiber, taking probiotics and the limited use of laxatives may help.
SUMMARY: Constipation is very common. However, abdominal pain that improves after a bowel movement and a sensation of incomplete bowel movements after passing stool are signs of IBS.
4. Alternating Constipation and Diarrhea
Mixed or alternating constipation and diarrhea affect about 20% of patients with IBS.
Diarrhea and constipation in IBS involve chronic, recurring abdominal pain. Pain is the most important clue that changes in bowel movements are not related to diet or common, mild infections.
This type of IBS tends to be more severe than the others with more frequent and intense symptoms.
The symptoms of mixed IBS also vary more from one person to another. Therefore, this condition requires an individualized treatment approach rather than “one-size-fits-all” recommendations.
SUMMARY: About 20% of patients with IBS experience alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation. Throughout each phase, they continue to experience pain relieved by bowel movements.
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