Overview

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects the function of the GI tract. IBS is a group of symptoms that come and go without damaging the GI tract. IBS-C or IBS-D are two categories of IBD, and are based on whether diarrhea or constipation is the primary symptom. IBS is a chronic disorder, but symptoms may disappear and then reappear without warning.

Causes

Doctors are not sure the cause of IBS, but research is focusing on several different possibilities. These research lines include infection, improperly working muscles of the colon, SIBO, incorrect signals between the brain and gut, and anxiety or depression.

Symptoms

IBS-D symptoms include passing watery stool three or more times per day with a sense of urgency. IBS-C is characterized by having fewer than 3 bowel movements in a week, having to strain to pass dry, hard stools. Other symptoms may include white mucosa appearing in the stool, swollen abdomen, and the feeling of not having “finished” the bowel movement. Women may notice an increase of symptoms during their menstrual period. If these symptoms are present at least three times monthly for the past three months and were first noticed at least six months previous, you should see a gastroenterologist for a diagnosis and to begin treatment.

Diagnosis

A recent study of patients who say the IBS found that most had self-diagnosed and were self -medicating. The main reason cited was that they did not feel that a doctor would either believe them or be able to do more for them than over the counter medications. Symptoms can affect the quality of a patient’s life and there are new medications on the market that can help.

When you speak with your doctor about IBS symptoms, they will take a detailed medical history, discuss your eating habits, and the use of certain medicines. Based on the severity and frequency of your symptoms, your doctor may order blood tests, breath tests, and a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Treatment

Dietary changes, probiotics, and medicines directed at symptoms are treatments for IBS. Because of the varying symptoms, it may take changes in the treatment to find the one that works best for you.