Irritable Bowel Syndrome, commonly known as IBS, is a functional disorder and includes a collection of symptoms. It is a very common gastro-intestinal disorder which affects the large intestine and causes spasms in the colon. IBS is more pronounced in developed countries than the developing ones like South-East Asia. In USA, 22-45 million Americans, majority of them being women, are affected every year by IBS. This disorder can often turn chronic, if untreated for a long period of time. IBS is generally not life threatening or fatal.
IBS is of 4 types depending on the prominence of symptoms during the disease span. They are: IBS-D: When diarrhea is the predominant syndrome, IBS-C: When constipation is the predominant syndrome, IBS-M/A: When both diarrhea and constipation occur in a alternating manner, IBS-U: When neither of the above 2 symptoms dominate but certain other symptoms become prevalent In addition, there is a 5th type of IBS also persists. It is called IBS-PI or post-infective IBS which occur when the infections relating to IBS have ceased.
The main cause of IBS is still unknown but there are a lot of factors that can trigger this disorder; some of which are: Acute gastro-intestinal infection, Abnormal nervous system affecting the gut-brain axis: Levels of certain chemicals like serotonin and gastrin which regulate the balance in this axis get disrupted and the nerve signals fail to coordinate properly, Increased sensitivity of the gut mucosa to food and pain: Hypersensitivity of the colon causes the gut to react even to mild stimulation, Abnormal movements of the large and small intestines: Instead of the slow rhythmic movement (called peristalsis), the bowels move very fast causing spasms
Since are no clear reasons for the occurrence in IBS, certain factors can increase the risk of a person conjuring this disorder. These factors are SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: Certain researchers believe the gut microflora i.e the gut bacteria can play some role in IBS. There can be overgrowth of certain "bad" bacteria in the gut like Brachyspira pilosicoli which abnormally affects the cytokine signaling pathway of the gut. Lactose intolerance, Diet rich in heavy foods, People under the age of 50 years, Excessive alcohol intake, Unusual response to infection, Hormonal disorders, Stress and sleep disorders, Genetic factors, Family history of IBS, Mental health problems, Depression and anxiety, Certain medications.
People who are prone to gastroentritis or stomach flu are at a greater risk of IBS than others. Hormonal changes in women, especially during menstruation, can further worsen the situation.
Since IBS is a functional disorder, its symptoms are very common and can often be ignored. Some of these can be often ignored. They include Abdominal pain, Diarrhea, Constipation, Flatulence (gas), Bloating, Nausea and vomiting, Straining during bowel movements, Rectal inflammation, Anal bleeding, Ulcers, Mucus in stool, Unexplained weight loss, Anemia due to iron deficiency, among the lot.
Though IBS is a chronic disorder, it can be controlled and prevented by making certain lifestyle changes. These changes mainly include changes in certain food/eating habits and include Lower intake of dairy products, Prevent intake of gassy foods like raw vegetables (mainly cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli), Reduce the intake of beverages like tea, coffee and carbonated drinks, Reduce alcohol intake, focus on a gluten free diet (avoid wheat, rye, and barley), A strict low FODMAP diet i.e avoid Fermented, Oligo and Disaccharides and Polyols in food. Certain changes like those given above can help to prevent IBS to a large extent.
In addition to treatment and therapy, stress control and management can help to control dietary and bowel problems greatly. Regular exercise like walking, swimming, cycling may aid in proper digestion. Yoga and tai chi can have a calming effect and promote a good mental health. Working for late hours in the night can also lead to gas and bloating. Proper time and stress management programs with expert counselors can help to reduce stress to a large extent. Meditation and ayurvedic healing techniques like steam bath, oil massage can also work as relaxation technique and help to reduce stress significantly.
Panchakarma, the ayurvedic healing process, enhances the metabolism and eliminates toxins from the body in a five-fold therapy. According to panchakarma, the most important cause of IBS is stress and lifestyle. The 5 techniques - vamana, virechana, basti, nyasa and raktamochana, if followed properly, make the body more receptive to the food and therapy employed to cure IBS. Administration of digestive toxins like chitrakadi vati and shankha vati can eliminate the enterotoxins or doshas which are responsible for IBS. This can be followed by administration of a ghee preparation like dashamudi ghrtia. Asafotida (hing) and adrak (ginger) are extremely beneficial for abdominal pain and gas.
Sesame oil can be incorporated both in food, massage and basti (enema); the abdomen should be massaged with the tail for 5 minutes before soaking it in warm water. This procedure helps in clearing the ama from the abdomen. Fennel,clove, cardamom, ginder help in increased digestion and absorption of food. Takra, which is buttermilk and water, churned in 1:1 ratio with rock salt and hing is a great astringent and improves the consistency of the faeces. Virechana using haldi (turmeric), guduchi and shatavari are beneficial for eliminating pitta from the body. Hingvashtaka chuma, mixed with ghee, taken twice per day followed by warm water, is a excellent remedy for flatulence. External therapies like abhyanga, navarakkizi, shiro dhara, chakra basti and hrid basti can be applied to a person depending on his/her condition. Fasting is another important aspect in panchakarma; incorporation of fasts in one's weekly schedule gives rest and helps to detoxify the digestive system. A day long fast concluded with light meal consisting of soups, mong dal, takra, khichdi and ghee is extremely beneficial. Bala and shatavari is advisable for patients with chronic IBS.
The early symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include abdominal pain and cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and changes in bowel movements. As the medical condition grows, the patient may also suffer from anxiety, depression, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, gas, and bloating.
Different types of foods could trigger different symptoms of IBS. Bread, coffee, excessive consumption of alcohol and carbonated drinks, and cheese could trigger IBS constipation. Fatty and fried food items, chocolates, and other dairy products could cause IBS diarrhea.
You may not notice the IBS symptoms for quite a while until these symptoms become more apparent. In this case, you might think that Irritable Bowel Syndrome has occurred suddenly, but the truth is the symptoms could be there for a while.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome could be long term medical conditions. It may go away quickly, but that depends on your diet and eating habits. Avoiding stress and anxiety and eating healthy foods may help in getting rid of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Yes, Irritable Bowel Syndrome causes pain and cramps. Gas and bloating may cause severe abdominal pain. Diarrhea and constipation could make the pain situation even worse. Moreover, severe conditions may trigger fatigue in the body and joint pain.