Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder that affects the colon or large intestine. It causes abdominal cramps, bloating, and a change in bowel movement. Some people with IBS suffer from constipation (this is called IBS-C, or IBS with constipation), while others suffer from diarrhea (IBS-D or IBS with diarrhea). There are also cases wherein pattern of constipation and diarrhea alternate (this is IBS-M or mixed IBS).
Medical professionals are not sure as to the real cause of IBS. One thing is certain, though – that it affects women more than men and that it is more often found in people below 45 years old. Its symptoms also vary from one person to another, but the most common are mucus in the stool, violent episodes of diarrhea, constipation, constipation alternating with diarrhea, gas and bloated feeling, belly pains or cramps, changes in bowel movement patterns, and harder or looser stools than normal.
As explained by the GastroCare LI center, IBS doesn’t necessarily have a cure; however, the following treatment options can help a patient manage its symptoms on a daily basis:
- Lifestyle changes
- Stress management (since stress is also said to worsen IBS symptoms)
- Talk therapy
- Mindfulness training
- Diet and nutrition counseling
The following medications may also help treat IBS:
- Antispasmodics, which can control colon muscle spasms;
- Antidiarrheal drugs, which may help with diarrhea;
- Laxatives, which relieves constipation;
- Antidepressants (since stress can worsen IBS symptoms);
- Linaclotide (Linzess), which can relieve constipation by making bowel movements happen more often; and,
- Lubiprostone (Amitiza), which treats IBS with constipation in women (it is not known if this drug will work in men).
Anyone with IBS can get help, but there is no single treatment that will works for everyone since its symptoms can be triggered by anything, including medicines, certain foods, presence of gas or stool, and even emotional stress. Thus, a doctor may require a patient to undergo different lab tests to help him/her determine what actually causes the symptoms.