Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition that afflicts many. It is a disease characterized by a strong feeling of discomfort, caused by dramatic changes in bowel movements.
This syndrome causes diarrhea in some, but can also lead to constipation in other cases.
The most common, everyday symptoms are cramps and abdominal pain, often to the extent that they pose a serious problem for the performance of daily responsibilities, ie lead to a significant reduction in what is meant by quality of life.
Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is quite common
Suffice it to say that IBS is one of the 10 most common reasons for visiting primary care physicians.It is estimated that as many as 10-15% of the population has this diagnosis.
It is important to note that not every stomach ache means IBS. The difference is that IBS cramps, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea are very common. The abdominal weights that we have all ever faced were short-lived and did not recur often.
What are the causes of IBS?
Doctors still do not have a clear picture of what exactly leads to this disease, but there are several theories, ie people with IBS have or most often have:
- Sensitive colon
- A brain that receives stimuli from the digestive tract, more or less than in other people, leading to abnormal muscle contractions.
- An immune system that responds differently to stress and infections.
- Hormonal changes that cause the syndrome (Such changes are most common in women. As many as 70% of IBS patients are women.)
- Lower or higher levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) that is produced in the stomach and can affect the digestive nerves. In patients with diarrhea, serotonin in the abdomen is elevated, while in those with constipation, its level is too low.
Although the exact causes are not known, irritable bowel syndrome is considered a disease by modern medicine. What helps in defining IBS is that it is not an anatomical or structural disorder, chemical disorder, or malignancy. Also, IBS does not cause other gastrointestinal diseases.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a set of symptoms that recur for at least half a year and occur at least 3 times a month. The pains are related to irregular urination and usually disappear with the emptying of the intestines.
Triggers (boosters) of IBS and diagnosis
You must have witnessed “butterflies in the stomach” many times. They are caused by stressful situations.
Stress can be a trigger, but it can also worsen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Other triggers include hormonal changes, large meals, and certain foods, as well as some medications.
It is very important to know what exacerbates or causes your symptoms, this is the first step in controlling IBS. Therefore, it is advisable to keep a diary with products that directly cause you unpleasant symptoms.
Diagnosis goes with a blood test, stool examination, and sometimes a colonoscopy. The most common other causes that can lead to similar symptoms are various infections, celiac disease, or food allergies.
Common triggers for IBS constipation :
- White bread, refined cereals (not whole grains)
- Pre-processed foods (snacks, chips, cookies ..)
- Coffee, carbonated drinks
- High-protein diet
- Dairy products, especially cheese
Common triggers of IBS diarrhea :
- Excessive fiber intake
- Carbonated drinks
- Large meal
- Dairy products
- Chocolate, caffeine, alcohol
Who is at particular risk for IBS?
Risk factors are age, gender (as many as 70% of patients are women), genetics (hereditary factor), susceptibility to stress, various food allergies, people with other digestive diseases, patients undergoing strong therapies, and those who are abundantly and incorrectly fed.
It is very important to recognize this syndrome and start some therapy, and most importantly, by changing bad life habits. Untreated can lead to more serious conditions such as malnutrition (due to impaired absorption and decreased appetite), hemorrhoids, complications during pregnancy, developing food allergies, etc.
Healthy lifestyles – the first line of therapy for IBS
There are appropriate therapies for managing this disease, ie appropriate therapies for diarrhea, constipation, pain, but also antidepressants if necessary.
However, lasting change is achieved by adopting the healthy diet that suits you best and you will be able to maintain it forever and find ways to deal with stress and regular physical activity.
A diet that helps with IBS-induced constipation
Increase fiber intake at least 25g for women and 38g for men. Good sources of such food are whole grains, fresh food (fruits, vegetables), legumes, nuts, etc. Fiber supplements are also an option. Avoid foods that contain sugar alcohol as a sweetener – sorbitol. Regular and sufficient hydration.
A diet that helps with IBS-induced diarrhea.
Control fiber intake. Although it is rare to overdo it with them, it is still sometimes possible. Do not eat foods that are too hot or too cold, especially not in combination. Avoid broccoli, cabbage, and onions. Eat smaller portions and drink plenty of water.
Increase your intake of probiotic foods
Yogurts, fermented vegetables, and maybe supplements, of course in consultation with your doctor.
Finally, as already mentioned, determine exactly which product (s) is causing your symptoms and avoid it.
IBS: Long-term prognosis
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition. Patients may experience calmer periods and then a sudden worsening of symptoms.
Keeping a personal diary of your diet, feelings, and symptoms can be a huge help in discovering the hidden triggers for IBS. Over time, the symptoms of IBS do not usually get worse.
It is important to note that this syndrome is not a life-threatening condition and does not lead to more serious conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or malignant bowel disease.