WHAT TREATMENT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
Everyone has experienced uncomfortable bouts of diarrhea or constipation from time to time, but for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), these symptoms can occur for months, and in some cases, even years.
IBS is not a disease per se, but rather, it is a name given for a group of symptoms that occur together. IBS is very common—an estimated 1 in 10 Americans have IBS.
SYMPTOMS OF IBS
Abdominal pain and cramping are the primary symptoms of IBS, and they may occur with diarrhea, constipation, or alternating periods of both. Other symptoms include abdominal bloating, and some with IBS may experience heartburn or nausea.
Because these symptoms may change over time, it is important to speak to your doctor or gastroenterologist, who can work with you to help monitor and manage your symptoms. Also, you should be aware that other diseases may have some of the same symptoms as IBS, so tests may be necessary to rule out other causes. IBS is more common in those less than 45 years old, and women are affected twice as often as men.
BUT ENOUGH ABOUT WHAT IBS IS — WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
While you should speak with your doctor about which course of treatment is right for you, IBS can be managed, and while IBS may be embarrassing and painful, it generally does not cause serious damage to the intestinal tract. In fact, many of those diagnosed with IBS utilize diet, stress management and medication to control and manage their symptoms.
While lifestyle factors such as stress and diet do not cause IBS, adjustments to your lifestyle can help diminish the symptoms of IBS. Things like lack of sleep and lack of exercise, prolonged stress, or irregular eating habits can worsen symptoms.
Sometimes, keeping a health diary of your diet, medication, and symptoms can not only help you learn more about IBS but can help you provide your physician with information that he she can use to plan a course of treatment. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders has developed a personal daily diary that may be helpful. Find it by clicking here.