What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

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Irritable bowel syndrome is considered as a prevalent, long-term condition affecting the digestive tract. This condition can trigger episodes of abdominal cramping, diarrhea, bloating and constipation.

The signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome tend to vary between individuals and can affect some severely than others. The condition tends to rise and fall in episodes that last for a few days up to a few months at a time, often during stressful occasions or after consuming certain foods.

Some of the symptoms improve after a bowel movement. Irritable bowel syndrome is believed to affect some individuals at some phase in life and it usually develops among individuals between 20-30 years of age. The condition is considered life-long but can improve over several years.

When to consult a doctor

Irritable bowel syndrome
The signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome tend to vary between individuals and can affect some severely than others.

If an individual is suspected with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a doctor should be consulted to determine the cause. The doctor can identify the condition based on the symptoms, but a blood test might be required to rule out other conditions.

Causes of irritable bowel syndrome

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is still unknown, but many experts believe that it is linked to the increased sensitivity of the gut and issues in digesting food. These issues might indicate that the individual is more sensitive to pain originating from the gut and there is the possibility for becoming constipated or develop diarrhea since the food passes via the gut either slowly or rapidly. Even psychological factors such as stress also play a role in the condition.

Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome

Even today, there is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome but the symptoms can be managed with changes in the lifestyle and diet such as the following:

  • Regular exercise
  • Identifying and avoiding foods or beverages that trigger the symptoms
  • Altering the amount of fiber in the diet
  • Reducing the levels of stress

Sometimes, medications are prescribed for those with irritable bowel syndrome to manage the symptoms.

Living with irritable bowel syndrome

Always bear in mind that irritable bowel syndrome is considered as an unpredictable condition. An individual might suffer from the condition for several months without any symptoms and then end up with an abrupt flare-up.

Irritable bowel syndrome can be debilitating and painful which can result to a negative impact on the quality of life and overall emotional state. Many individuals who have irritable bowel syndrome can experience feelings of anxiety and depression at some point.

A doctor should be consulted if the individual has feelings of anxiety or depression that affects daily life. These issues rarely improve without treatment and the doctor can recommend treatments such as antidepressants or cognitive behavioral therapy to help the individual cope with irritable bowel syndrome as well as directly managing the condition.

With proper treatment, the individual can live a normal and active life even with irritable bowel syndrome. Take note that this condition does not poses as a serious threat to physical health and will not increase the risk for developing cancer or other bowel-related illnesses.


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