Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is uncomfortable. We mean it's named irritable. There can be pain and alternating issues of either constipation or diarrhea. You don’t know how your day will go. How many times will you be hitting the bathroom? You are not alone. IBS is a lot more common than we think and appears mostly in young people and women. Common as it may seem, there’s still an underlying mystery as to why it happens.
Fortunately, we now have ways to manage it. Read on to learn ways to treat IBS.
What is IBS?
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Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS), as it is appropriately named, is an irritation in bowel habits and abdominal pain. It's a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects our colon. Symptoms range from feeling bloated to having gas, and bathroom-related issues like constipation and diarrhea.
Discomfort is even categorized by three labels: D, C, and M.
- IBS-D. D is for diarrhea. When you have IBS-D, there is an increase in the volume of your poop and you are running to the toilet more than three times a day. To describe it to your doctor, you are pooping the type 6 or 7 in the Bristol stool chart.
- IBS-C. C is for constipation. Those with IBS-C are constipated, experiencing hard, dry, and lumpy poops along with possible stomach pain. Compared to IBS-D, you only go number two less than three times a week. This is the exact opposite of D, which means you are most likely to be pooping type 1 and 2 in the Bristol poop chart.
- IBS-M. M is for Mixed. It’s hard enough that you are experiencing one pooping pain, now it’s both? Liquid toilet drip and hard pellets. We are sorry.
What causes IBS?
Although the cause of IBS seems to be unknown, recent findings report that certain factors may attribute to the development of IBS. These are:
- Gut microbes change. Research shows that people with IBS have different gut microbes from those in healthy people. When there is an imbalance in the gut microbiome, it makes our gut activate its immune system and cause low-grade inflammation. This gut microbiome imbalance is calleddysbiosis, which happens when we dothings that harm our gut bacteria like not eating a diverse range of foods or getting prebiotics in our diet.
- Intestine muscle contractions. Peristalsis are auto wave contractions that help digest food from mouth to toilet. Longer, more intense contractions can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea while mild contractions slow down food passage leading to constipation.
- Nervous system. Remember the gut-brain connection? Our mind has a direct effect on our gut. Disorganized signals sent between the mind and gut can cause the body to react differently to what the normal digestive process, leading to stomach pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
- Psychological stress. Research points to psychological stress as playing a role in the development of IBS.
- Food. Food intolerance in IBS doesn’t show a clear relation but people with IBS share that consuming certain food and drink like wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk, and carbonated drinks worsen IBS symptoms.
As many people have occasional signs and symptoms of IBS, additional risk factors for people include:
- Age. IBS occurs more frequently in people under age 50.
- Gender. Women report having IBS at a higher rate than men.
- Family history. Genes, as well as the environment, may be a factor in having IBS.
- Mental state. Mental issues such as depression, anxiety, and a history of abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional) also might add to be risk factors.
List of IBS Symptoms
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Your body and mood will let you know as IBS as it comes with the following symptoms:
- Stomach Cramps. Abdominal pain is the most common clue when it comes to IBS. Normally our gut and mind communicate well through nerves and hormonal signals sent by the probiotics in the gut. IBS happens when that signal is distorted, usually caused by stress.
- Changes in bowel movements like diarrhea and constipation or a mix.
- Bloating and Gas. Another symptom of IBS is the feeling of accumulation of gas in the gut which makes the abdomen feel full or look rounder than normal.
- Fatigue. Research reported that those with IBS experience exhaustion or fatigueand it usually co-occurs with other symptoms, causing distress.
- Anxiety and Depression. Although the direct relationship between stress and depression and IBS is not clear, WebMD reported that 60% of IBS patients have the symptoms of one or more psychiatric disorders.
- Sleep disorder. A collection of studies showedthat sleep disorders are common in people with IBS and are significantly associated with the syndrome. Although it also remains unclear, the gut-mind connection plays an important factor in IBS.
Although IBS can happen to both men and women, women are more prone to having it due to childbearing and also report some gynecologic disorders:
- Menstruation. Women with IBS symptoms vary depending on their menstrual cycles. Before or while women are on their period, those with IBS report experiencing more abdominal pain and diarrhea. Women with IBS feel bloated or constipated after ovulation. Others experience symptoms like fatigue, pre-menstrual syndrome (also called PMS) insomnia, backache stomach cramps, and painful menstruation.
- Sex drive and libido. Those with IBS may experience changes in sexual appetite like a decrease in sexual desire, discomfort, and pain during intercourse which affects one’s sex life.
- Quality of life. IBS also results in frequent bathroom breaks and general discomfort that affects normal social function, leading to women experiencing depression.
When to See a Doctor
Is it important to know what type of IBS you have. Consult yourdoctor who will know whatkind of medicine or treatment to prescribe. If regular IBS symptoms seem stronger and more severe than usual, also consult with your doctor. Symptoms you need to watch out for are:
- Gas. Abnormal, strong smelling gas and possible pain.
- Cramps. Cramps are so severe that it prevents you from carrying on with your day.
- Painful abdomen. A rating pain of 7 out of 10, with 10 as the most intense.
- Severe levels of diarrhea and or constipation.
- Mucus. Colon may start to release mucus with your stool.
However, while mucus in the stool may be expected, blood in the poop is not. Seek immediate medical attention if the following symptoms occur as they do not typically come with IBS:
- Discomfort in eyes, skin, joint
- Progressive pain
- Sudden weight loss
- Night symptoms that interrupt sleep
How to Manage IBS
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As we mentioned in the beginning, although the exact cause of IBS is still a mystery, we do have ways to manage it:
- Consume a low FODMAP diet. A Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols (FODMAP) diet is low in fermentable carbs and is known to relieve IBS because it reduces sugars that the small intestine absorbs poorly causing gut distress.
- Take medications.Depending on the type of IBS that you have, your doctor may recommend some medications like pain medications, laxatives, anti-diarrheal, anticholinergic, certain anti-depressants, or even fiber supplements.
- Talk to a professional. Research showed that psychological interventions such as therapy are effective treatments for patients with IBS, and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, in particular, has been proven to demonstrate significant improvement in patients.
- Increase fiber intake. Doctors recommend increasing your soluble fiber intake to relieve symptoms of IBS, as it is believed that IBS is caused by fiber deficiency. The USDA recommends a daily dietary fiber intake of 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. If access to green leafy, fiber-rich vegetables is not always possible, a fiber supplement like Bonny can help.
Bonny helps with IBS
Bonny is an all-natural, prebiotic fiber supplement that is vegan, gluten-free, and plant-based. Bonny makes fiber intake exciting as it offers four fun flavors: Amplified Apple Pie, Berry Beauty, Matcha Magic, and Strawberry Serenity.
As always, we wish you pleasant poops and a healthy gut.