Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is so common that it accounts for about 12 percent of the annual visits to physician offices across the country. Understanding what this condition is and why it's so predominant can assist you in acknowledging effective treatments for it.
What is IBS?
Known medically as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), this condition is characterized as having abdominal pain and other associated symptoms of the digestive tract. Most patients experience intermittent pain and cramping in the abdominal region.
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Changes In Bowel Movements
- Food Intolerance
While IBS is not dangerous, it can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. It's important to understand that IBS will not cause any permanent damage to the colon or result in any serious disease like cancer.
However, IBS can negatively impact day-to-day life. So, what treatment options should people with IBS know about to discuss with their doctors?...
1. Lifestyle Changes
One of the best forms of treatment for most mild IBS cases is lifestyle changes. With the help of a physician to assess a patient's lifestyle conditions, a strategic plan is implemented to reduce symptoms.
Why Lifestyle Changes May Help
Many IBS symptoms are thought to be caused by stress and dietary factors. Therefore, assessing stress-related lifestyle habits and formulating a plan to reduce stress can help to alleviate painful symptoms associated with IBS.
In addition, keeping a food journal can help to identify problem foods that worsen symptoms. By eliminating these foods or decreasing their amounts or frequency, one can better manage their symptoms.
In short, managing IBS starts with the successful evaluation of lifestyle factors and implementing positive changes to reduce symptoms. These changes may also include adding the following...
A person's gut contains literally trillions of bacteria called microbes. Microbes can be good, aiding the body with digestion. Probiotics are live "good" bacteria from sources like yeast. Probiotics have been shown to reduce the symptoms of gas and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
Why Probiotics May Help
The increase of a specific probiotic called Bifidobacteria may provide relief from bloating and gas symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It's thought that this probiotic works to regulate bowel functions in the body. By taking Bifidobacteria pills or liquid, a patient can enjoy better quality bowel functions that highly lessen or even fully eliminate gas and bloating created by digestion in the body.
As with any form of irritable bowel syndrome management, the patient should be tracking their symptoms and the food they ingest to determine whether or not the intended treatment is effective for their body.
If probiotics aren't the right choice, the following may help (just be sure not to use probiotics and the next item on this list at the same time)...
Antibiotics can be an effective treatment for IBS due to their ability to alter gut bacteria. After a consistent treatment of antibiotics for a 10 to 14-day period, patients should notice a significant difference in the frequency of their abdominal pain and consistency of their stool.
Why Antibiotics May Help
Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms have been connected to bad bacteria residing in the patient's gut. By altering the balance of bad to good bacteria in the gut via antibiotics, a patient can experience relief from their symptoms.
The most prescribed antibiotic right now is Xifaxan, also known as rifaximin, which has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. This drug has been shown to be well-tolerated in patients who utilize it for an extended period of time to manage their irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
Of course, this drug isn't the only one that may help IBS...
4. Prescription Medications
One of the most effective treatments for IBS? Prescription medications. The type of medication that a patient is prescribed highly depends on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome that they are experiencing.
Why Prescription Medications May Help
Depending on the type of symptoms that a patient experiences, medication can aid in altering the patient's bodily functions to decrease pain.
For example, patients who experience regular abdominal cramping after eating will be prescribed medication such as Bentyl (dicyclomine) or Levsin/SL (hyoscyamine). These are both antispasmodic medications that work by slowing down the natural movements of the patient's gut and relaxing stomach muscles.
Patients who experience constipation from irritable bowel syndrome will likely be prescribed laxatives to aid in releasing waste from the body.
Patients who experience diarrhea regularly will be prescribed anti-diarrhea agents such as Diamode (loperamide)
Of course, the foods we eat also play a part in gut health; diet is therefore especially important for IBS patients...
5. Low-FODMAP Diet
Research has shown that many IBS patients tend to be overly sensitivite to various types of carbohydrates. These carbs are...
- fermentable oligosaccharides,
- monosaccharides, and
... or FODMAP for short. When consuming these carbohydrates in moderate to high amounts, patients may suffer a variety of IBS symptoms.
Why a Low-FODMAP Diet May Help
By changing a patient's diet to keep the levels of these carbohydrates low, they can experience fewer symptoms of IBS. The main dietary sources that make up FODMAP and a few examples of each can be found below.
- Oligosaccharides - Rye, Legumes, Certain Fruits, Garlic, Onions, Wheat
- Disaccharides - Yogurt, Soft Cheese, Milk
- Monosaccharides - Figs, Mangoes, Honey, Agave Nectar
- Polyols - Blackberries, Lychee, Artificial Sweeteners, Sugar-Free Gum
A quick look online or asking a nutritionist for help can reveal which foods should be avoided and which ones are okay. Many patients respond very well to this type of dietary change and notice a full decrease in their IBS-related symptoms.
Diet cannot work alone, though. Dietary changes should be paired with the following...
6. Regular Exercise
Exercising on a regular schedule has been shown to reduce stress, boost overall health, and ease symptoms associated with IBS.
Why Regular Exercise May Help
One factor that IBS patients have in common is that stress can amplify and trigger IBS symptoms. By committing to exercising on a regular basis, patients are able to reduce stress in the body. This reduction in stress can provide many benefits, including IBS symptom relief.
Exercise has also been shown to enhance overall well-being and mental health. Patients who are in a positive emotional state have less physical triggers than those who are not.
Lastly, exercise works to keep your digestive system working effectively. This helps to reduce irritable bowel syndrome symptoms like constipation, where the digestive tract is not working correctly.
The following part of a holistic treatment plan for IBS? It's incredibly important for everyone, not just those who suffer from this condition...
7. Consistent Sleep Schedule
Another common attribute that many irritable bowel syndrome sufferers have in common is the lack of good sleep hygiene. Without quality sleep, mental health and physical well-being suffer.
Why A Consistent Sleep Schedule May Help
Part of successfully managing IBS symptoms is reducing stress. When a person is unable to get quality sleep at night, their mental health sufferers. Practicing good sleep hygiene has been shown to enhance the quality of sleep that patients have. This, in turn, decreases the symptoms that they experience from their condition.
When it comes to good sleep hygiene, there are a few different tips that IBS patients should follow.
- First, have a period of relaxation before going to bed. This allows the body to calm down before falling asleep.
- Stick to a habitual schedule so the body can create a natural rhythm of when it's time to fall asleep and when it's time to wake up.
- Lastly, avoiding caffeine or food before bed can assist patients in falling asleep faster.
Considering how closely intertwined physical health and mental health are, it should come as no surprise that many IBS patients find the following helpful...
Patients who suffer from IBS are at a higher risk for psychological conditions like anxiety and depression. Counseling can be an effective strategy to help individuals manage mental issues regarding their condition and enhance their overall quality of life.
Why Counseling May Help
Although the exact cause of IBS is not understood, many studies have reported that patients who suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) pain conditions like IBS have an increase in negative moods. Many patients don't showcase anxiety in general. Rather, they only show anxiety when it comes to active GI events or sensations. Some of these events include diarrhea, eating, and abdominal pain.
These GI-specific symptoms of anxiety can cause patients to fear future GI symptoms and make them more vigilant to natural sensations in the body. Through the use of psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, biofeedback therapy, and relaxation therapy, patients are able to manage anxiety related to GI-specific symptoms. This works to reduce overall pain experienced by the body due to this medical condition.
What's most important for IBS patients to know about treatment?...
As you can see, those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome have many different treatment options. From at-home activities to prescription medication, managing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms is achievable.
Always Consult a Doctor
It's best to start talking with a physician to get diagnosed. Keeping a food and symptom journal can help a patient to easily identify where their problems exist. This journal can also help a physician give more accurate recommendations to the patient.
Once all of a patient's symptoms are accurately identified, a doctor can easily prescribe medication, a change in diet, or another form of treatment. It's important to note that combining various treatments above can help to alleviate a wide variety of symptoms that a patient may be experiencing. It's best to give each form of treatment a try and see how the body responds.