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What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common ailments of the bowel (intestines) and affects an estimated 15% of persons in the US. The term, irritable bowel, is not a particularly good one since it implies that the bowel is responding irritably to normal stimuli, and this may or may not be the case. The several names for IBS, including spastic colon, spastic colitis, and mucous colitis, attest to the difficulty of getting a descriptive handle on the ailment. Moreover, each of the other names is itself as problematic as the term IBS.


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Irritable bowel syndrome is understood as a multi-faceted disorder. In people with IBS, symptoms result from what appears to be a disturbance in the interaction between the gut or intestines, the brain, and the autonomic nervous system that alters regulation of bowel motility (motor function) or sensory function.

IBS is best described as a functional disease. The concept of functional disease is particularly useful when discussing diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. The concept applies to the muscular organs of the gastrointestinal tract; the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, gallbladder, and colon. What is meant by the term, functional, is that both the muscles of the organs or the nerves that control the organs are not working normally, and, as a result, the organs do not function normally. The nerves that control the organs include not only the nerves that lie within the muscles of the organs but also the nerves of the spinal cord and brain.

Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by a group of symptoms in which abdominal pain or discomfort is associated with a change in bowel pattern, such as loose or more frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, and/or constipation.

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It can either cause the colon to freeze up causing constipation, or cause it to contract spastically which will cause diarrhoea. Other areas you may want to cut back on are coffee, chocolate, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and caffeine as they are all either stimulants or irritants, and therefore, they cause your GI tract to either be stimulated or irritated which can cause an attack. The irritable bowel syndrome diet concentrates on eating healthy foods to reduce your symptoms as there is no cure for IBS.

You should consult your doctor if you believe you have the disease and they will discuss the treatment options with you. They will usually discuss your diet and whether you can make any changes in order to improve the condition, such as increasing the fibre in your diet, before going on to specific treatments.

While IBS is a major functional disease, it is important to mention a second major functional disease referred to as dyspepsia, or functional dyspepsia. The symptoms of dyspepsia are thought to originate from the upper gastrointestinal tract; the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. The symptoms include upper abdominal discomfort, bloating (the subjective sense of abdominal fullness without objective distension), or objective distension (swelling, or enlargement). The symptoms may or may not be related to meals. There may be nausea with or without vomiting and early satiety (a sense of fullness after eating only a small amount of food).

Sometimes irritable bowel syndrome is referred to as spastic colon, mucous colitis, spastic colitis, nervous stomach, or irritable colon. Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is generally classified as a "functional" disorder. A functional disorder refers to a disorder or disease where the primary abnormality is an altered physiological function (the way the body works), rather than an identifiable structural or biochemical cause. It characterizes a disorder that generally can not be diagnosed in a traditional way; that is, as an inflammatory, infectious, or structural abnormality that can be seen by commonly used examination, x-ray, or blood test.

The irritable bowel syndrome diet also suggests eating either small, frequent meals, or eating smaller portions of your three meals. Large, fat filled meals only serve to irritate your stomach and cause stomach pain, diarrhoea or constipation. Healthy and conscientious eating should be your main goal. Fruits, vegetables, lean meat and whole grain breads will help your stomach to stay on a balanced plane so that you will not have as many flare-ups.

When diarrhea is present, recommended over the counter IBS medications may include an anti-diarrhea product like Immodium or Kaopectate. These products may reduce diarrhea, but researchers have found that they do not relieve other symptoms such as IBS pain and bloating. Both aloe and slippery elm have an anti-inflammatory effect which may relieve IBS pain. Bloating and gas may be relieved by antacids, anti-gas products or an herbal remedy. IBS medications made from herbs and botanicals often include several ingredients (several different herbs and plants) in an attempt to relieve all of the symptoms of IBS. Gastronic Dr. is one such herbal remedy.

The study of functional disorders of the gastrointestinal tract often is categorized by the organ of involvement. Thus, there are functional disorders of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and gallbladder. The amount of research on functional disorders has been focused mostly on the esophagus and stomach (such as dyspepsia), perhaps because these organs are easiest to reach and study. Research into functional disorders affecting the small intestine and colon (for example, IBS) is more difficult to conduct and there is less agreement among the research studies. This probably is a reflection of the complexity of the activities of the small intestine and colon and the difficulty in studying these activities. Functional diseases of the gallbladder, like those of the small intestine and colon, also are more difficult to study.

As regards the cause of IBS, no-one really knows but a common theory is that it is largely brought on by stress. Some experts also believe it is a result of an abnormality in the immune system. Whatever the cause the good news is that IBS can be effectively treated, even though there is not one outright cure.

The IBS medications currently available may be disappointing. They do not cure the syndrome. Certain medications may relieve IBS pain in the abdomen, constipation or diarrhea, but particularly when both are present at different times, long term treatment and control of IBS requires dietary and lifestyle changes. A complete treatment plan typically includes a combination of therapies, rather than prescription IBS medications alone.

The irritable bowel syndrome diet helps to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. It may not completely cure the condition but it will space the attacks out so they are not as frequent. One of the main things that need to be removed from your diet as much as possible is high fat foods. Fat causes a violent reaction in the colon which can cause either constipation or violent diarrhoea.

Some physicians suggest adding fiber to your irritable bowel syndrome diet to reduce symptoms. Fiber such as apples, peaches, raw broccoli and carrots, cabbage, and peas as well as kidney and lima beans and whole-grain breads and cereals will round out your diet. Eat the fiber first when your stomach is empty to help reduce the symptoms. You may be thinking that there is no way you can follow the irritable bowel syndrome diet but once you learn what you can and cannot eat then you will be able to reduce your symptoms and learn your "triggers."

Treatment options are available to manage IBS???whether symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe.

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Some gastrointestinal diseases can be seen and diagnosed with the naked eye, such as ulcers of the stomach. Thus, ulcers can be seen at surgery, on x-rays, and at endoscopies. Other diseases cannot be seen with the naked eye but can be seen and diagnosed with the microscope. For example, celiac disease and collagenous colitis are diagnosed by microscopic examination of biopsies of the small bowel and colon, respectively. In contrast, gastrointestinal functional diseases cannot be seen with the naked eye or with the microscope. In some instances, the abnormal function can be demonstrated by tests, for example, gastric emptying studies or antro-duodenal motility studies. However, these tests often are complex, are not widely available, and do not reliably detect the functional abnormalities. Accordingly, by default, functional gastrointestinal diseases are those involving the abnormal function of gastrointestinal organs in which abnormalities cannot be seen in the organs with either the naked eye or the microscope.

 
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When IBS pain is related to constipation, doctors may recommend over the counter IBS medications, such as laxatives. But, taking laxatives may lead to diarrhea, can be habit forming and become ineffective after continued use. Aloe is a recommended herbal remedy. Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation may be relieved with products containing aloe, but may worsen diarrhea. A product containing slippery elm may be an effective herbal remedy. Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation or diarrhea may be relieved by using a product containing slippery elm. It has been used historically by native peoples to treat both constipation and diarrhea.

Some IBS medications are heavily marketed and highly advertised. IBS has become a fairly common diagnosis, affecting as many as one in five people at some point in their lives. It is important to remember that, while many IBS medications are safe for temporary use, some may worsen symptoms and/or cause other problems when used for long periods of time. In order to relieve IBS pain, many people turn to alternatives like chiropractic or hypnotic therapies. When stress is an issue, stress management techniques may be effective for relieving IBS pain and other symptoms. Regular exercise may be an effective alternative to IBS medications. Exercising stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain, which block pain and improve mood. And, of course dietary changes may be the most effective.

Despite the shortcomings of the term, functional, the concept of a functional abnormality is useful for approaching many of the symptoms originating from the muscular organs of the gastrointestinal tract. This concept applies particularly to those symptoms for which there are no associated abnormalities that can be seen with the naked eye or the microscope.

Other possible treatment options include aloe vera which will help boost your immune system, and therefore may help to ease the symptoms, and anti-depressants if the disease is said to be a result of stress. Another possible treatment is psychotherapy and hypnotherapy which has been known to help treat the disease in some instances.

Overall your treatment options for irritable bowel syndrome will ultimately depend on your own specific form of the condition, and your doctor will generally advise you on the best course of action. The important point to remember is that although there is no outright cure, there are a number of different ways you can help fight the condition so you can live a relatively normal life free of any discomfort.

It is important to remember that if you have symptoms of IBS, you should see your doctor. IBS pain and other symptoms are similar to the symptoms of more serious health conditions. You should not attempt to treat IBS pain on your own, chronic constipation or continuous diarrhea should be reported to your doctor. For more information about IBS and other digestive problems, visit www.digestive-disorders-guide.com.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS for short, is a particularly unpleasant condition caused by a number of symptoms affecting the area around the bowel, gut or intestines. It is a condition that cannot be completely cured, but it can be effectively treated and kept at bay to a large extent.

Doctors may prescribe low doses of anti-depressants for IBS pain. But, certain of the newer anti-depressants like Paxil and Prozac can cause diarrhea. All anti-depressants have side effects such as dry mouth, blurred vision and headache. Zelnorm is one of the prescription IBS medications that has been proven effective for relieving constipation and IBS pain in women, but has not been shown to work in men. It is only recommended for short term use and can cause serious side effects.

Occasionally, diseases that are thought to be functional are ultimately found to be associated with abnormalities that can be seen. Then, the disease moves out of the functional category. An example of this would be Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach. Many patients with mild upper intestinal symptoms who were thought to have abnormal function of the stomach or intestines have been found to have an infection of the stomach with Helicobacter pylori. This infection can be diagnosed by seeing the bacterium and the inflammation (gastritis) it causes under the microscope. When the patients are treated with antibiotics, the Helicobacter, gastritis, and symptoms disappear. Thus, recognition of Helicobacter pylori infection removed some patients' diseases from the functional category.

The distinction between functional disease and non-functional disease may, in fact, be blurry. Thus, even functional diseases probably have associated biochemical or molecular abnormalities that ultimately will be able to be measured. For example, functional diseases of the stomach and intestines may be shown ultimately to be caused by reduced levels of normal chemicals within the gastrointestinal organs, the spinal cord, or the brain. Should a disease that is demonstrated to be due to a reduced chemical still be considered a functional disease? I think not. In this theoretical situation, we can't see the abnormality with the naked eye or the microscope, but we can measure it. If we can measure an associated or causative abnormality, the disease probably should no longer be considered functional.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a frequently diagnosed condition in this country. Approximately 10 to 20% of people have this condition. Women account for almost 70% of this group. This condition causes explosive diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain as well as other symptoms. There is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome so one of the best and easiest ways to treat this condition is through the irritable bowel syndrome diet.

Most individuals are surprised to learn they are not alone with symptoms of IBS. In fact, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects approximately 10-20% of the general population. It is the most common disease diagnosed by gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in medical treatment of disorders of the stomach and intestines) and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care physicians.

These may be specific to your own unique form of the condition and may include general treatments such as laxatives if you have constipation and anti-diarrheals if you suffer from diarrhoea. You may also be given specific drugs to reduce the spasms in your bowel that is responsible for much of your discomfort.

All in all, the irritable bowel syndrome diet is about eating healthy. If you make the effort to stay away from "trigger foods" and to eat small portioned, healthy, and low fat meals then hopefully there will be a decrease in your symptoms. This does not mean you have to stay away from restaurants or eating what you want to follow the irritable bowel syndrome diet it just means you need to make smarter choices to keep from having as many attacks. It is up to you and your stomach!

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Let's first of all discuss the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Every individual is different and may have different symptoms but the most common symptoms are abdominal pains, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, uncomfortable bowel movements, and it may also cause vomiting as well. In all it's not a nice condition because your bowel seems particularly over-sensitive and will often force you to make frequent visits to the toilet whilst causing a lot of discomfort at the same time.

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience as a healthcare professional and currently writes informational articles for the Digestive Disorders Guide. Read more at http://www.digestive-disorders-guide.com.


 
 
     
 
 





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Because irritable bowel syndrome signs and symptoms may include diarrhea, constipation or a combination of both, the recommended prescriptions and over the counter medications for irritable bowel syndrome vary depending on the individual. For example, Zelnorm is used to treat IBS with constipation, but it should not be used by those who suffer from IBS with diarrhea. Irritable bowel...


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