Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be hard to diagnose because it shares symptoms with other diseases. Stomach cramps, bloating, gas, and constipation or diarrhea are among the symptoms most common in people with IBS. Unfortunately, all these symptoms are all too common; they can be the symptoms for other conditions.
Yet, physicians and researchers regard this syndrome as among the most common disorders and often distinguish it as much by what it is not, or by the absence of signs of other diseases. Unlike more serious ailments, like Crohn’s or colitis for example, IBS does not produce inflammation of the colon. Neither does it increase the odds of colorectal cancer, as those diseases can.
Since the symptoms of IBS are so common and varied, IBS can be difficult to immediately diagnose. But, IBS is chronic, and the symptoms can be contradicting — a patient may be alternating between bouts of diarrhea and constipation.
One of the causes of IBS is that the intestine’s peristalsis is abnormally strong. Peristalsis is the contraction of intestinal muscles that moves partially digested food (“chyme”) into the colon. As the chyme moves through the intestines, water is removed and helpful bacteria creates vitamins such as K and B. When you have IBS, the peristalsis causes the food to move either too slowly or too rapidly. If the food moves too rapidly, diarrhea will occur. On the other hand, constipation occurs if the food moves too slowly.
According to research, there are people who are very sensitive to peristalsis. When their bowel is stretching as a result of bloating or gas, they feel it clearly. Women too have been found to be more likely to have IBS, and studies attribute this to hormones. It appears that the symptoms of IBS become worse when women are having their period.
Diet plays a big role in IBS. Some people have IBS after they’ve consumed milk, chocolate, or alcohol. Reducing the amount of such foods can help reduce the symptoms, but in most cases, diet alterations are called for. Some people find that eating yogurt works in countering the effects of milk.
IBS is also aggravated by anxiety and stress. Reducing stress levels can dramatically help eliminate, or reduce, the symptoms of IBS. Unfortunately, reducing stress is much easier said than done. The first step is often understanding what is causing your stress so that you can better manage your environment.
Almost 20 percent of all adults in the United States may suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Since the condition is often not diagnosed correctly, however, more than half of the people with IBS receive the proper treatment. IBS is typically confused with the common “upset stomach” but is much more chronic. While IBS is not a particularly serious condition, if you believe you have the symptoms, you should consult with a doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.