What is irritable bowel syndrome? What is it caused by? What are her symptoms? How long does it last? How do you diagnose? How are you treated? This one-off? will it come back Could there be complications? How do you live with irritable bowel syndrome?
What is irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – also known as irritable bowel syndrome – is the name given to a set of symptoms in the digestive system, the main of which are intermittent constipation and diarrhoea, abdominal pain and abdominal swelling. In most cases of irritable bowel syndrome, all these symptoms appear together.
It should be emphasised that the syndrome is not dangerous and does not imply a serious illness. However, in many cases the symptoms impair the quality of life and make daily functioning difficult.
In most cases, the syndrome is treated through a combination of measures: correct diet adjustment, regular physical activity, reduction of stressors in daily life and, if necessary, providing drug treatment to relieve the symptoms.
It is estimated that between 5% and 25% of the adult population in the world suffer from sensitive bowel symptoms. Women suffer from the syndrome three times more often than men.
An interesting detail: those who suffer from sensitive bowel syndrome lose work days at a rate that is three times greater than healthy people.
What causes irritable bowel syndrome?
The reason for the development of the syndrome is unknown, but there are several hypotheses regarding its causes.
The leading hypotheses are changes in the activity pattern of the muscles of the intestinal wall, poor communication between the central nervous system and the nerves of the digestive system, and even hormonal changes that can affect the functioning of the intestines.
Other common reasons for the development of symptoms include a change in the composition of the “good” bacteria in the large intestine – a change that can appear after antibiotic treatment or after a transient infection in the digestive tract.
The genetic connection is not unequivocal, but it is likely that it exists. It seems that the risk of suffering from the syndrome increases slightly if there are relatives who suffer from it.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are varied and can appear together or separately. Symptoms tend to worsen during periods of physical and mental stress.
The main symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain that is relieved after going out.
- Diarrhoea .
- Multiple ports.
- A combination of diarrhoea and constipation.
- Secretion of mucus in the stool.
- Swelling of the stomach and lots of gas.
What are the warning signs that require an immediate visit to the doctor?
Irritable bowel syndrome can cause significant discomfort, but usually does not lead to a medical emergency.
how long does it last
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition characterised by prolonged periods of time in which the symptoms are suffered, but also by significant periods characterised by silence and the absence of symptoms.
It is possible to receive treatments – as will be detailed later – and thereby alleviate the symptoms significantly and even be free from them for extended periods.
How do you diagnose Irritable bowel syndrome?
Sensitive bowel syndrome is diagnosed mainly based on the description of the symptoms (anamnesis) given by the patient to the doctor and based on a physical examination. A report of typical symptoms is usually sufficient to almost certainly diagnose the syndrome.
However, sometimes the doctor helps with some additional tests such as blood and stool tests.
- The Rome Criteria allow the attending physician to determine what is the main disorder in the function of the sensitive intestine and thus adapt the most effective treatment to the patient.
- After a medical interview and physical examination, the doctor may refer the patient for blood tests and stool tests to make sure that the inflammation indices are not increased in a way that makes one suspect that it is an inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis ) or an infection in the digestive system.
- In some cases, the doctor may instruct the patient to do an endoscopic examination of the digestive system ( gastroscopy and colonoscopy ) to rule out the existence of inflammatory bowel diseases or colon cancer or to find out the origin of anemia (iron deficiency) whose cause is unknown.
- In other cases, the doctor will order a blood test for celiac disease (gluten sensitivity) and breath tests to diagnose intolerance to certain sugars found in fruits (fructose) or in various dairy products (lactose).
- In addition to this, a unique stool test can be done to detect calprotectin (which is a by-product of white blood cells of the neutrophil type). This test helps to effectively predict if there is an inflammatory process in the intestines – something that is not typical for sensitive bowel syndrome and requires further investigation.
How is sensitive bowel syndrome treated?
Since the cause of the syndrome is unknown, treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms rather than curing them.
It is recommended to observe regular and nutritious meals at regular times during the day, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes physical activity, weight loss (if you are overweight), making sure to drink adequate water and reducing stress in everyday life as much as possible.
From accumulated experience it is known that there are various techniques that are effective for reducing stress such as regular physical activity, yoga, meditation and even psychotherapy . In addition to this, you can use treatments from the field of complementary medicine .
If drug treatment is necessary, the doctor must adapt the treatment to each patient individually and in a controlled manner.
Those who suffer from a lot of diarrhea can use stool softeners such as Imodium or certain types of insoluble fiber.
Those who suffer from constipation symptoms can benefit from enriching their diet with dietary fiber and even stool softeners such as Normalex.
Patients suffering from multiple gasses are advised to avoid foods with a high concentration of sugars that increase gas formation in the large intestine. These are foods such as sweetened juices and legumes. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables may also encourage gas production in the large intestine.
Another and important facet of the treatment is the use of antidepressants (such as ciprofloxacin and altrolet ) in low doses. The accumulated experience shows that this treatment is effective – especially for patients who tend to suffer from abdominal pain. It turns out that these drugs balance the neural pain mechanisms and reduce pain transmissions from the gut to certain areas of the brain.
Could there be complications?
Sensitive bowel syndrome is primarily a functional disorder and not an inflammatory disease or a malignant disease. The symptoms result from a malfunction of one of the intestinal mechanisms, so in the vast majority of cases there are no significant complications during life (such as surgeries, biological treatments or treatments for malignancy).