What is IBS?

by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms that occur together, including repeated pain in your abdomen and changes in your bowel movements, which may be diarrhea, constipation, or both. With IBS, you have these symptoms without any visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract.

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. Functional GI disorders, which doctors now call disorders of gut-brain interactions, are related to problems with how your brain and your gut work together. These problems can cause your gut to be more sensitive and change how the muscles in your bowel contract. If your gut is more sensitive, you may feel more abdominal pain and bloating. Changes in how the muscles in your bowel contract lead to diarrhea, constipation, or both.

Studies suggest that about 12 percent of people in the United States have IBS.

Women are up to two times more likely than men to develop IBS. People younger than age 50 are more likely to develop IBS.

What Other Health Problems Do People With IBS Have?

People with IBS often have other health problems, including certain conditions that involve chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic pelvic pain; certain digestive diseases, such as dyspepsia and gastroesophageal reflux disease; and certain mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and somatic symptom disorder.

What Are The Symptoms Of IBS?

The most common symptoms of IBS are pain in your abdomen, often related to your bowel movements, and changes in your bowel movements. These changes may be diarrhea, constipation, or both, depending on what type of IBS you have. Other symptoms of IBS may include bloating, the feeling that you haven’t finished a bowel movement, and whitish mucus in your stool. Women with IBS often have more symptoms during their periods.

IBS can be painful but does not lead to other health problems or damage your digestive tract. To diagnose IBS, your doctor will look for a certain pattern in your symptoms over time. IBS can be a chronic disorder, meaning it lasts a long time, often years. However, the symptoms may come and go.

What Causes IBS?

Doctors are not sure what causes IBS. Experts think that a combination of problems may lead to IBS. Different factors may cause IBS in different people.

Functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders such as IBS are problems with brain-gut interaction—how your brain and gut work together. Experts think that problems with brain-gut interaction may affect how your body works and cause IBS symptoms. For example, in some people with IBS, food may move too slowly or too quickly through the digestive tract, causing changes in bowel movements. Some people with IBS may feel pain when a normal amount of gas or stool is in the gut.

Certain problems are more common in people with IBS. Experts think these problems may play a role in causing IBS. These problems include stressful or difficult early-life events, such as physical or sexual abuse, and certain mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and somatic symptom disorder. Other problems include bacterial infections in your digestive tract; small intestinal bacterial overgrowth; an increase in the number or a change in the type of bacteria in your small intestine; and food intolerances or sensitivities, where certain foods cause digestive symptoms. Research suggests that genes may make some people more likely to develop IBS.

How Do Doctors Diagnose IBS?

To diagnose IBS, doctors review your symptoms, medical and family history, and perform a physical exam. In some cases, doctors may order tests to rule out other health problems.

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and look for a certain pattern in your symptoms to diagnose IBS. Your doctor may diagnose IBS if you have pain in your abdomen along with two or more of the following symptoms:  your pain is related to your bowel movements (for example, your pain may improve or get worse after bowel movements); you notice a change in how often you have a bowel movement; you notice a change in the way your stools look.

Your doctor will ask how long you have had symptoms. Your doctor may diagnose IBS if you have had symptoms at least once a week in the last three months, and your symptoms first started at least six months ago. Your doctor may diagnose IBS even if you have had symptoms for a shorter length of time. You should talk to your doctor if your symptoms are like the symptoms of IBS.

Your doctor will look for a certain pattern in your symptoms to diagnose IBS. Your doctor will also ask about other symptoms. Certain symptoms may suggest that you have another health problem instead of IBS. These symptoms include anemia, bleeding from your rectum, bloody stools or stools that are black and tarry, and weight loss.

Your doctor will also ask you if you have a family history of digestive diseases, such as celiac disease, colon cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease. The doctor will also ask you about the medicines you take, recent infections, stressful events related to the start of your symptoms, and what you eat.

Your doctor may recommend changes in your diet to help treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Different changes may help different people with IBS. You may need to change what you eat for several weeks to see if your symptoms improve.

If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health.

The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com. *Content source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK

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