What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal illness affecting the gut.

The true cause of IBS is unknown, however, experts believe that it's due to a miscommunication between the brain and the intestinal tract resulting in a malfunction of normal movements. Usually the brain and the gut work together to regulate digestion, so problems occur when there is disruption. IBS affects roughly 10-15 percent of adults and tends to be more common with women over men.

On average, IBS is officially diagnosed when symptoms persist for 6 months or longer. While not everyone experiences that same exact same symptoms the most common are:

  • Pain and Cramping Abdominal pain, most commonly the in the lower abdomen, is the symptom that almost always affects anyone suffering from IBS. Wrong signals from the brain may trigger spasms and contractions. Those, in turn, cause cramping and discomfort.

  • Diarrhea When the brain signals the colon to move the colon then triggers premature digestion resulting in runny, loose stool which may also contain mucus. Part of the challenge with this symptom is random onset - there isn't much warning when and where this will happen.

  • Constipation On the flip side, miscommunication from the brain can also slow down digestion. Given the slower speed the bowel has more time to absorb water, therefore creating a more dense and difficult stool to pass.

  • Flatulence Disruption in regular digestions leads to more creation and buildup of gas. This is because food is not properly broken down and remains undigested. The excess gas leaves sufferers bloated, crampy and unbearably comfortable.

  • Fatigue/Headache/Anxiety/Depression IBS is debilitating and can leave sufferers restless and overly stressed. The symptoms listed above can keep people enjoying their regular activities due to the aches, pains and the embarrassment. To minimize embarrassment, people often chose to avoid social situations, which for many provokes sadness.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS only management of symptoms. The good news is, those of suffer from IBS rarely experience their symptoms constantly but rather in bouts (which, of course, comes with its own frustrations). It is possible to go months at a time without incident.

First and foremost, as with any health concern, if you feel you may have IBS consult with your doctor. Keep track of what you are feeling and when you are feeling it. Pay attention to your diet, as a poor diet may be the cause many of the same symptoms.

In conclusion, while there is no cure there are ways to alleviate and manage IBS symptoms. Please refer to our next post for details.