|Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, is an uncomfortable gastrointestinal condition that may cause diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating or abdominal cramps. The condition can develop at any age, but often begins during early adulthood. Irritable bowel syndrome can occur in either sex, but is most commonly seen in women. Mayo Clinic reports that as many as 1 in 5 individuals have IBS, but fewer than half actually seek help for the condition.|
What Are Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms?
According to Webmd.com, any of the following symptoms may support an IBS diagnosis
Bowel movement patterns
With IBS, your bowel movement patterns may change over time. Two or more of the following may happen:
Other possible intestinal symptoms
- Your bowel movements may occur either more often than usual, presenting as diarrhea, or less often than usual, presenting as constipation. In other words, you might have more than three bowel movements each day or less than three the whole week.
- Your bowel movements may differ in size and consistency.
- You may strain some days, feel an urgent need to have a bowel movement on other days, or feel that your stool hasn't passed completely.
- You may experience bloating or a feeling of gas in the intestines.
Some people may have lower abdominal pain with constipation that is sometimes followed by diarrhea. Other people have pain and mild constipation but no diarrhea.
Symptoms that are sometimes present include intestinal gas and passage of mucus in stools.
There may be other symptoms present that don’t affect your intestines, including:
- Anxiety or depression
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Painful intercourse
- Reduced libido
- Heart palpitations
- Urinary symptoms
What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
The exact cause of IBS is not known. In some people, it can develop after an intestinal infection, but that is not always the case. Symptoms often occur after a meal or during menstruation. IBS may also be worsened by stress. The nerves of the autonomic nervous system connect the colon and the brain. During stressful times, these nerves can cause the intestines to contract, which in sensitive people contributes to IBS flair ups.
What You Can Do to Help Prevent or Minimize the Effects of IBS
First of all, don’t self-diagnose your condition, even if you think the list of IBS symptoms describes your own symptoms. Visiting a doctor will help rule out more serious colon conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and colon cancer, which can have similar symptoms. If your doctor diagnoses you with IBS, he or she may discuss certain medications that may help.
While there is no known cure for IBS, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help relieve your symptoms.
- Increase dietary fiber, especially psyllium fiber such as Konsyl
- Exercise regularly
- Improve sleep habits
- Avoid alcohol and stimulants, such as caffeine
- Eliminate high-gas foods
- Avoid large meals
- If diarrhea is your main symptom, limit dairy products, fruit and artificial sweeteners
- Keep a journal to identify other triggers to avoid