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What to do about irritable bowel syndrome

Posted by CarePoint Health on Jun 1, 2015 11:00:00 AM

irritable bowel syndromeIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects millions of people, yet many cases go undiagnosed. Its symptoms can be bothersome and even severe, so if you suspect you have IBS, it’s time to talk to your physician.

IBS is called a “functional” bowel disorder, because it is a result of problems with bowel function and activity. It does not involve any physical (anatomical) problems with the body. IBS affects each person differently, with some people reporting severe symptoms, and others having only mild, occasional problems.

Symptoms of IBS

Fortunately, having IBS does not put you at risk for other bowel problems, and it does not damage the bowel in any way. Many people with IBS are otherwise healthy individuals. However, symptoms can be severe enough to interfere with your daily life. Symptoms of IBS typically include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

In order to be classified as IBS, these symptoms have to be long-term and recurring (not just an occasional problem). Many people notice their symptoms immediately after eating a meal, and may find that certain types of foods trigger their symptoms.

Foods and IBS

Some people find relief after making dietary changes. You may find that avoiding the following foods can help alleviate your IBS symptoms:

  • High-fat, greasy foods
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Certain dairy products
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Foods that cause gas, such as beans or cruciferous vegetables

It’s important to note, however, that not everyone’s symptoms are triggered by these foods. The best way to know if you should avoid certain foods is by keeping a food diary for a few weeks. Write down what you eat and drink for each meal and snack. Then, if you have IBS symptoms, write them down as well. You may start to see a correlation between certain foods and how you feel after eating them.

Medication options

For people with moderate to severe IBS, certain medications can help you manage symptoms and the stress associated with IBS. A variety of medications have been shown to be effective for treating IBS symptoms, and your physician can discuss the most appropriate treatment for you. Many medications are available over the counter, while others may be prescribed for you. Some options may include:

  • Fiber supplements or laxatives for chronic constipation
  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • Antispasmodics to reduce muscles spasms and/or pain in your abdomen
  • Antidepressants that may relieve abdominal pain and other symptoms

Your physician will work with you to find the best treatment for your symptoms. There is no one-size-fits-all medication for IBS. For some people, taking probiotics has been shown to be helpful. Talk with your gastroenterologist to determine what will be the best course of action for you.

Gastroenterology at CarePoint Health

With the help of a skilled gastroenterologist, you can manage your IBS symptoms and get back to enjoying the things you love. For more information about our comprehensive gastroenterology services, please contact us.

Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.

Topics: IBS, Gastrointestinal