IBS is a condition that causes a wide variety of intestinal and digestive symptoms, including gas, bloating, abdominal pain or cramping, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and mucousy stools. Some patients experience a need to defecate shortly after eating, others experience relief of symptoms with defecation. IBS is a chronic condition that requires long-term management, but IBS doesn't cause changes in the lining of the bowel, which means that IBS doesn’t cause ulcers or change your risk of colorectal cancer.
There are three main types of IBS:
It is not uncommon for individuals with IBS to switch from one type to another.
The underlying cause of irritable bowel syndrome hasn't been determined yet, but research studies indicate it may be triggered by food sensitivities or allergies, hormonal fluctuations, infections, illness, or travel, chronic stress or illness, or an imbalance in the populations of microorganisms found normally in a healthy gut. Studies suggest a link between IBS and the way nerves between the brain and digestive tract interact. People with IBS are hyper-sensitive to messages coming from the brain to the digestive tract, so nerve impulses can get misread, causing ordinary stresses of living to result in colon malfunction.
The diagnosis of IBS can suspected based upon a medical history and a physical exam, as well as a description of symptoms. But IBS is ultimately a diagnosis of exclusion; that is, other conditions of the bowel need to be ruled out before a firm diagnosis of IBS can be made.
Many diseases and conditions share symptoms with IBS, and are therefore important to rule out. These include: cancer, infection, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). To exclude these diagnoses, tests may include blood tests, stool samples, diagnostic imaging like ultrasound or CT scan, and colonoscopy to look inside the colon and rectum.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) shares many symptoms with IBS. For this reason, it is often a very important diagnosis to investigate in those suspected of IBS. However, it is recently being found that many people with IBS also have SIBO (called “co-morbid SIBO”). It is even hypothesized that SIBO could be one of the primary causes of IBS. For more information on SIBO, please look here.
IBS can be treated with lifestyle changes, daily medications to normalize bowel habit, and/or medications as needed for acute symptoms.
Lifestyle changes can include trials of various diets, including the sensitive stomach diet and SIBO diet. Stress reduction techniques can be helpful in taking personal control of the mind body connection, thus reducing some of the overstimulus of the gastrointestinal tract. Medications are sometimes used to normalize the bowel habit by thickening the stool to prevent chronic diarrhea, or by softening the stool and stimulating bowel movements to prevent chronic constipation. Depending on the severity and nature of patients’ symptoms, medications may also be prescribed to manage specific symptoms, like gas, abdominal pain or cramping, and nausea. Each patient's treatment plan will be customized based on individual needs to achieve a treatment that is best suited for the individual.
Here is a list of just some of the plans we accept, please contact our office if you have any questions.
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