If you have been suffering from IBS in silence, and you’re not really sure how to talk to someone about it, April is your time to start speaking up. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders has designated April as IBS Awareness Month and we invite you to come celebrate it with us at Carolina Digestive Health Associates. If celebrating a gastrointestinal disorder sounds a little strange to you, don’t worry. We can help you out!
One of the first steps to treating and living with irritable bowel syndrome is to understand exactly what it is. From a practical perspective, the most important component of understanding IBS is knowing how it presents and what you can do to reduce your symptoms. The most common symptoms include cramping, pain in the abdomen, gas, diarrhea or constipation, bloating, unintended weight loss, bleeding from the rectum, and persistent pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or having a bowel movement. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms persistently for a few weeks, you need to contact your doctor for an exam to determine if IBS is the issue.
While the exact cause of IBS isn’t known, there are a number of factors that can contribute to the disease. IBS can be brought on by muscle contractions in the intestine that interfere with how food moves through the digestive tract. Nervous system issues and inflammation in the intestines can also contribute to pain and diarrhea, as well as causing more discomfort. Additionally, IBS can develop after you have a gastrointestinal bacteria overgrowth or virus.
There is no test that can show a person is definitively experiencing IBS. Since there are a few different types of IBS, and the symptoms of the disease mirror those of other common GI illnesses, you may need some diagnostic testing done in addition to discussing your history and current health problems with your doctor. Some of the tests may include a colonoscopy, X-ray or CT scan, lactose intolerance testing, an endoscopy, or a stool test. These tests might not pinpoint IBS exactly, but they can serve to eliminate other possibilities.
Anyone can develop IBS, but it’s most common in younger people, especially women. It can manifest itself in people who have a family history of the disease. Those who suffer from mental health challenges like anxiety or depression are also more prone to experience the disease.
There is no real treatment for IBS, but you can learn how to manage your symptoms and make yourself more comfortable. Before you come in for an appointment, it’s a good idea to write a journal about your symptoms. Keep track of what you’re eating and drinking, what exercise and physical activity you are doing, the symptoms you’re experiencing, and the severity of the symptoms. Depending on your health and individual case, your doctor might prescribe a specific diet, either over the counter or prescription medication, or other lifestyle changes like weight loss or an exercise routine.
If you’re ready to take control of your IBS and learn how to manage your symptoms, book an appointment with Carolina Digestive Health Associates so we can help you determine the best course of action.