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Health and Fitness News

Living with IBS

Learn the symptoms, triggers, and best ways to manage this condition.

You know what it’s like to feel irritated. Little things set you off and put you in a bad mood. You’re easily annoyed and extra sensitive. It’s called irritable bowel syndrome for a reason.

With irritable bowel syndrome, a.k.a. IBS, you’re not irritated. Your bowels are. And they give you annoying problems in the bathroom department. Which can cause you to be irritated.

Bowel irritation causes different symptoms for each person. Figuring out what’s triggering the irritation can be a guessing game. By working with your gastroenterologist and dietician, you can develop a plan for managing your condition.

Types and Symptoms

IBS affects your large intestine. This part of the digestive tract is responsible for removing water, electrolytes, and some nutrients from digested food before it exits the body.

There are three types of IBS:
IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M)

Your symptoms depend on the type of IBS you experience. The most common symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, mucus in the stool, constipation and/or diarrhea. Symptoms may come and go, but typically last years.

It’s common for people with IBS to also deal with other health problems. They may have chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, other digestive diseases, anxiety, or depression.

A Combination of Causes

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but it seems that a combination of things contribute to its development. It’s thought that IBS results from problems with brain-gut communication. These problems may stem from a variety of factors. Some suspect the problem is rooted in bacterial infections in the digestive tracts. Other experts see it as connected to early life stress or trauma, an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, abnormal intestinal muscle contractions, or food sensitivities.

Risk Factors and Triggers

Anyone can suffer from IBS. However, certain people are at higher risk for the condition. The following increase your risk:

Being female
Being younger than 50
Dealing with anxiety or depression
Having family members with the condition

Over time, many begin to recognize triggers of their IBS symptoms. Foods such as beans, cabbage, and citrus are common culprits. As are gluten-rich foods, dairy products, and carbonated beverages. IBS symptoms don’t just show up based on what goes in your mouth. Symptoms often flare during times of stress.

See Your Doctor

Anytime you have an ongoing change in bowel habits, make an appointment with your doctor. IBS is diagnosed based on your pattern of symptoms, physical exam, and medical history. Certain lab tests or imaging tests may be ordered to rule out other possible conditions.

After a diagnosis, your doctor may recommend lifestyle or diet changes. Probiotic supplements, and medication may also help. And for mental health, stress management, or therapy may be recommended. Your treatment plan will depend on the type of IBS you have. It also depends on whether you struggle most with constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of both.

Whatever your symptoms, it’s important to avoid foods that trigger them. You should also drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and eat the proper amount of fiber. Eating meals on a consistent schedule and exercising regularly should help manage your symptoms. You may want to consult a dietician about what dietary changes are best for you.

Finding the right treatment plan may take time. What works for one person may not work for another. So don’t give up! With the right treatment plan, you can improve your quality of life and find relief.