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What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common ailments of the bowel (intestines) and affects an estimated 15% of persons in the US. The term, irritable bowel, is not a particularly good one since it implies that the bowel is responding irritably to normal stimuli, and this may or may not be the case. The several names for IBS, including spastic colon, spastic colitis, and mucous colitis, attest to the difficulty of getting a descriptive handle on the ailment. Moreover, each of the other names is itself as problematic as the term IBS.


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Some gastrointestinal diseases can be seen and diagnosed with the naked eye, such as ulcers of the stomach. Thus, ulcers can be seen at surgery, on x-rays, and at endoscopies. Other diseases cannot be seen with the naked eye but can be seen and diagnosed with the microscope. For example, celiac disease and collagenous colitis are diagnosed by microscopic examination of biopsies of the small bowel and colon, respectively. In contrast, gastrointestinal functional diseases cannot be seen with the naked eye or with the microscope. In some instances, the abnormal function can be demonstrated by tests, for example, gastric emptying studies or antro-duodenal motility studies. However, these tests often are complex, are not widely available, and do not reliably detect the functional abnormalities. Accordingly, by default, functional gastrointestinal diseases are those involving the abnormal function of gastrointestinal organs in which abnormalities cannot be seen in the organs with either the naked eye or the microscope.

Consult your doctor about OTC antidiarrheal meds for IBS treatment before taking anything. In addition, you shouldn't resort to antidiarrheals until at least 24 hours after experiencing diarrhea, as you don't want to stop your body from expelling toxins in the event your diarrhea is a result of bacteria such as food poisoning.

Meanwhile, to facilitate better movements of the stool in the colon, it is best that you take extra amounts of dietary fiber. This is especially true for those who suffer from constipation-dominant irritable bowel.

Fiber can be acquired from natural resources such as vegetables and fruits, nuts, brown rice, figs, peas, French bread, raisings, soybeans, and a number of others.

For instance, avoiding/limiting foods high in refined, artificial or natural sugar can help alleviate diarrhea symptoms. This doesn't only include chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and sweets. It also means foods containing fructose such as honey and a variety of fruits. Foods high in sugar can act like a laxative to your body, especially for an IBS sufferer who already has a sensitive stomach.

While foods may not actually act as root causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, their effects are still substantial enough. It is good to note however that there is no fixed formula for creating the diet for Irritable Bowel syndrome. The results will always lie on the strategic combination of foods to promote lesser symptoms and healthier intestinal tract.

The following are 5 treatment options for relieving IBS related diarrhea: 1 - Diet Control Before resorting to medications or alternative remedies, you should always consider your diet first. Although diet changes may not entirely cure you from diarrhea, it may help reduce the frequency of attacks. Therefore, you should monitor your diet by keeping a food diary and recording the symptoms you feel after eating different foods to determine which ones cause diarrhea and which ones don't.

Fats are known to create a slower digestion in the stomach. The more time it takes the intestinal bacteria to digest foods, the higher the risk of creating gas thus, most patients of Irritable Bowel syndrome suffer from intestinal gas which in itself is also associated with diarrhea, bloating, constipation and other major symptoms.

Occasionally, diseases that are thought to be functional are ultimately found to be associated with abnormalities that can be seen. Then, the disease moves out of the functional category. An example of this would be Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach. Many patients with mild upper intestinal symptoms who were thought to have abnormal function of the stomach or intestines have been found to have an infection of the stomach with Helicobacter pylori. This infection can be diagnosed by seeing the bacterium and the inflammation (gastritis) it causes under the microscope. When the patients are treated with antibiotics, the Helicobacter, gastritis, and symptoms disappear. Thus, recognition of Helicobacter pylori infection removed some patients' diseases from the functional category.

Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by a group of symptoms in which abdominal pain or discomfort is associated with a change in bowel pattern, such as loose or more frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, and/or constipation.

If you eat food with a high water content e.g. fruit and vegetables then this will add to your daily water intake as will all foods to some degree. There seems to be a popular school of thought of not to drink water with your meal as it may hamper the digestion process. So you could either drink water before your meal or after your meal. Take care not to overdo the water consumption, spread it out over the day. Drinking too much water in a short space of time is not good for the body; remember you also need to replace salts as well during the day.

5 - Behavioural therapy Stress can actually trigger your IBS symptoms and make diarrhea worse, by causing your stomach to tense, leading to cramping and overall stomach upset. You can help reduce the regular stress in your life, and the stress you feel towards your IBS condition by engaging in:

- Stool thickeners -these contain fruit pectin and clay which absorb toxins and bacteria in the intestine to help thicken stool (I.E. Kaopectate)

Over-the-counter (OTC) antidiarrheal medications can be effective at providing diarrhea relief when used as short-term treatment. There are two types of antidiarrheal drugs.

Another approach to preventing constipation is to drink more water. The figures say that we ought to drink about 8 glasses. This equates to a minimum of 2 litres, if you not doing any exercise. If you are on an exercise programme then you will need to increase your intake of water to more than 2 litres. Notice that this is an intake of water rather than fluids. So caffeine and alcohol intake has to be monitored as they are both diuretics i.e. they force water out of the body.

Changes in our diet would certainly create effects on the fashion by which we digest foods. This then will change the chemical interaction involved in the processing of these crucial substances.

It is not surprising that food has got something to do with the causes of irritable bowel syndrome. After all, it is in the intestinal tract that we process foods. Thus, what we eat normally affects the way our intestines function.

Constipation is marked by compacted stool or too loose stool. Fiber acts as the neutralizer since it adds bulk to the stool to administer easier expulsion from the system.

One thing to point out is to avoid becoming dependent on laxatives. They may offer short term relief from constipation, but the theory is that in the longer term you're encouraging your bowel to become lazy. I was talking to my Medical Doctor this week about laxatives and she said that the over the counter medicines can be aggressive on the digestive whereas some of the prescription laxatives may be milder. As ever what affects one person in one way may not affect another in the same way.

Foods with high caffeine content like coffee, chocolate, and carbonate rinks are also known to trigger Irritable Bowel syndrome. Therefore, these must be eliminated from your list of foods so that you can get around from the likelihood of stimulating the rise of abdominal complications.

While IBS is a major functional disease, it is important to mention a second major functional disease referred to as dyspepsia, or functional dyspepsia. The symptoms of dyspepsia are thought to originate from the upper gastrointestinal tract; the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. The symptoms include upper abdominal discomfort, bloating (the subjective sense of abdominal fullness without objective distension), or objective distension (swelling, or enlargement). The symptoms may or may not be related to meals. There may be nausea with or without vomiting and early satiety (a sense of fullness after eating only a small amount of food).

- Meditation exercises (I.E. Yoga)


- Relaxation therapy


- Hypnotherapy


- Cognitive behavioural therapy


It's also a good idea to distract yourself by taking part in regular activities you enjoy.

Constipation can be a difficult IBS symptom to deal with, but so can diarrhea. People who suffer from diarrhea-predominant IBS experience frequent bowel movements of watery and/or loose stool. Other diarrhea-related symptoms include abdominal pain or discomfort, cramping, bloating, gas, nausea and dehydration.

 
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Another medication that may be prescribed is Lotronex. This particular drug is designed to block the effect serotonin (chemical produced by the body) has on digestive system, and in so doing, soothes the colon and slows bowl movement frequency. Lotronex has been found to be successful at alleviating IBS symptoms including diarrhea, stomach discomfort and urgency.

However, Irritable Bowel Syndrome does not deal with chemical interactions alone. It is basically a functional disorder that borders more on the abnormalities of functions that don't often project actual or physical complications. In fact, this is the exact reason why the nature of the disease is not yet fully known. Add to it the fact that most factors involved are under subjective details, which also require subjective treatments. This alone is enough to conclude why there is lack of concrete knowledge on the true characteristics of the syndrome.

- Antispasmodic - these slow spasms that occur in the intestine (I.E. Imodium). Although, antidiarrheals are usually effective, they may not help other symptoms such as bloating or abdominal discomfort. Furthermore, prolonged use of antidiarrheals can result in dry mouth, constipation, and other symptoms.

Despite the shortcomings of the term, functional, the concept of a functional abnormality is useful for approaching many of the symptoms originating from the muscular organs of the gastrointestinal tract. This concept applies particularly to those symptoms for which there are no associated abnormalities that can be seen with the naked eye or the microscope.

The study of functional disorders of the gastrointestinal tract often is categorized by the organ of involvement. Thus, there are functional disorders of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and gallbladder. The amount of research on functional disorders has been focused mostly on the esophagus and stomach (such as dyspepsia), perhaps because these organs are easiest to reach and study. Research into functional disorders affecting the small intestine and colon (for example, IBS) is more difficult to conduct and there is less agreement among the research studies. This probably is a reflection of the complexity of the activities of the small intestine and colon and the difficulty in studying these activities. Functional diseases of the gallbladder, like those of the small intestine and colon, also are more difficult to study.

Trigger foods are obviously those who create tension in the stomach which then causes it to function in an abnormal manner. Some of the trigger foods are those which have high fat content while very low in fiber content. Oils, cream, poultry skin, fried foods, and coconut milk are among the most common foods that cause problems.

Most individuals are surprised to learn they are not alone with symptoms of IBS. In fact, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects approximately 10-20% of the general population. It is the most common disease diagnosed by gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in medical treatment of disorders of the stomach and intestines) and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care physicians.

One symptom of bowel dysfunction is constipation. Constipation is the irregular or the incomplete emptying of the bowel. In these days of diet and nutritional awareness, most people would probably increase their fibre intake to remedy a sluggish bowel. Most people are aware that wholemeal bread contains more fibre than white bread. This type of fibre is called insoluble fibre. Whilst reducing the effects of constipation, it is thought that insoluble fibre may irritate the intestinal lining. With this in mind, it may be worth balancing your consumption of bread with eating grains e.g. Porridge oats, which are classified as soluble fibre.

IBS is best described as a functional disease. The concept of functional disease is particularly useful when discussing diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. The concept applies to the muscular organs of the gastrointestinal tract; the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, gallbladder, and colon. What is meant by the term, functional, is that both the muscles of the organs or the nerves that control the organs are not working normally, and, as a result, the organs do not function normally. The nerves that control the organs include not only the nerves that lie within the muscles of the organs but also the nerves of the spinal cord and brain.

Sometimes irritable bowel syndrome is referred to as spastic colon, mucous colitis, spastic colitis, nervous stomach, or irritable colon. Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is generally classified as a "functional" disorder. A functional disorder refers to a disorder or disease where the primary abnormality is an altered physiological function (the way the body works), rather than an identifiable structural or biochemical cause. It characterizes a disorder that generally can not be diagnosed in a traditional way; that is, as an inflammatory, infectious, or structural abnormality that can be seen by commonly used examination, x-ray, or blood test.

You should also ask your doctor to test you for lactose intolerance, as an inability to properly digest milk sugar can cause diarrhea. 2 - OTC Antidiarrheal Drugs

There are supplements that can be taken to restore bowel movement to a more regular cycle. Ispaghula or Psyllium Husks are bulking agents that surround the stool making them softer and more able to pass through the intestine. Ispaghula or Psyllium Husk are both available in powder form. Psyllium Husk is more likely to be available without any artificial sweeteners whereas in my experience I've only ever taken Ispaghula Husk with Aspartame. Psyllium Husk in particular, because it is not sweet, is not the nicest tasting substance.

The distinction between functional disease and non-functional disease may, in fact, be blurry. Thus, even functional diseases probably have associated biochemical or molecular abnormalities that ultimately will be able to be measured. For example, functional diseases of the stomach and intestines may be shown ultimately to be caused by reduced levels of normal chemicals within the gastrointestinal organs, the spinal cord, or the brain. Should a disease that is demonstrated to be due to a reduced chemical still be considered a functional disease? I think not. In this theoretical situation, we can't see the abnormality with the naked eye or the microscope, but we can measure it. If we can measure an associated or causative abnormality, the disease probably should no longer be considered functional.

If you are interested in learning about alternative treatments, talk to you health care provider first, and be sure to seek treatment from qualified practitioners.

Thus, any activities that would result to the removal of these factors will create lesser chances of triggering the attacks. One best way of doing this is through following of a diet plan that would remove problematic foods while supplementing them with foods helpful in improving the symptoms.

Note: Lotronex has only been approved for women who suffer from severe cases of diarrhea-predominant IBS ad have not responded to previous treatment methods.

3 - Prescription Medications Low doses of tricyclic antidepressants are commonly prescribed to IBS patients for abdominal pain. These meds effectively block pain signals to the brain and don't cause diarrhea. However, they can cause other symptoms including constipation.

Irritable bowel syndrome is understood as a multi-faceted disorder. In people with IBS, symptoms result from what appears to be a disturbance in the interaction between the gut or intestines, the brain, and the autonomic nervous system that alters regulation of bowel motility (motor function) or sensory function.

4 - Alternative Therapy Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, probiotics and herbal remedies can effectively reduce and alleviate diarrhea and its related symptoms in some IBS sufferers. Each of these methods is designed to assist the body in healing itself by providing it with stimulation (acupuncture), healthy gut bacteria (probiotics), or herbs. All work to aid in normal digestion.

Though we know for a fact that all these contribute to the development of the syndrome and the consequential attacks of symptoms, the medical community cannot still provide a comprehensive treatment plan for all patients to eliminate IBS.

If your bowel symptoms persist, you must see your medical doctor. Do not self diagnose as your pain may be a sign something more dangerous.


 
 
     
 
 





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