What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms that affect the digestive system. While the exact cause of IBS is not known, there are several factors that may play a role including how the muscles contract in the intestine, abnormalities in the nerves of the digestive system, bacterial overgrowth in the intestines, early life stress or changes in gut microbes.
Common symptoms associated with IBS include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Abdominal bloating.
- Changes in bowel movements.
- Excess gas.
There are also different categories of IBS based on the symptoms experienced, which include:
- IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D): Stool is usually loose and watery.
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C): Stool is hard or pebble-like.
- IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M): Individuals have a mix of hard and loose bowel movements on a daily basis.
How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?
If you have been experiencing uncomfortable GI symptoms, be sure to speak with your GI provider. He or she will speak with you regarding your medical history and perform a physical exam. Depending on your symptoms, testing may be recommended, including stool tests, a breath test for SIBO, lactose intolerance tests, colonoscopy, X-ray, CT scan, upper endoscopy or more. These tests can help your doctor to gather the information he or she needs to properly diagnose and treat your condition.
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Treatment Options for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Treatment for your IBS will be personalized depending on your symptoms. Oftentimes, treatment may include lifestyle and dietary changes, medications or a combination of both.
Your doctor may recommend that you eliminate specific foods from your diet, including foods that cause gas or bloating such as alcohol or carbonated drinks, gluten or FODMAPs such as fructose, fructans and lactose. Oftentimes, a dietician knowledgeable regarding IBS can help you to successfully make these diet changes.
Individuals diagnosed with IBS should stop smoking, exercise regularly and regulate their stress as best as possible. Eating smaller meals throughout the day can also be helpful in reducing symptoms.
There are a number of medications that may be able to help with several aspects of IBS. Probiotics can help to balance the good bacteria in your gut to improve symptoms, while other medicines can help to improve symptoms of diarrhea, constipation or abdominal cramping. Antidepressant medications may be prescribed for those with anxiety or depression along with their GI discomfort.
What is the Difference between IBD and IBS?
Oftentimes, people get Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) confused with each other. However, they are two different conditions with different symptoms. While IBD is a disease, IBS is a group of symptoms. IBS also does not inflame or damage the intestines as IBD does, and surgery and hospitalization for IBS are rare. However, it is possible for an individual to have both IBD and IBS at the same time.
Your South Denver GI Team
At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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