Irritable Bowel Syndrome Isn’t the Easiest Illness to Manage or Discuss. IBS Awareness Month Aims to Change That.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects millions of people in the United States and can be a difficult and sometimes challenging condition to manage. For this reason, the medical community has designated April as IBS Awareness Month to help raise awareness about the condition and its three forms.
The Three Forms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There are three categories of IBS:
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C): Symptoms include hard stools and difficult bowel movements. People with IBS-C suffer from constipation more often than diarrhea. Their digestive systems may contract more slowly than normal. The longer food spends in the intestines, the more water gets absorbed. This leads to hard, lumpy bowel movements that are difficult to pass.
- IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D): Symptoms include loose or watery stools that occur more often than average with the pain usually described as abdominal cramps that come and go, which often improves after bowel movements. This occurs due to a person’s digestive system contracting too quickly, which leads to loose, watery bowel movements.
- Mixed IBS (IBS-M): Symptoms range from constipation with occasional diarrhea to diarrhea with occasional constipation. People with IBS-M have equal episodes of constipation and diarrhea. In other words, they don’t have a “predominant” symptom. The speed of their digestive system is inconsistent, leading to these alternating symptoms.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Regardless of which type of IBS a person may have, there are some common symptoms shared by all types. These include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, flatulence, and changes in bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea. People suffering from more severe IBS cases may also experience nausea, fatigue, headache, and depression.
Treatment Options for Those With Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for IBS. But treatments like dietary changes and medications can help reduce the severity of symptoms over time as well as improve quality-of-life for those who suffer from mild to moderate cases of it. Changes in diet can make an enormous difference when it comes to managing your symptoms – especially if you’re prone to eating dairy products or foods that cause gas or bloating, like beans, lentils, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower.
Cutting out wheat gluten or replacing white breads and pastas with whole-grain options can also help reduce symptoms significantly over time. Medications such as antispasmodics can also reduce cramping. Anti-diarrheal drugs may be prescribed if needed in more severe cases where other treatments have failed to work effectively enough on their own. Your doctor may also suggest psychological therapies such as hypnotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy as an additional treatment if it is deemed necessary after diagnosing your particular case.
As we continue to raise awareness about IBS, let us not forget that each person’s living experience with this condition is unique. Understanding this often misunderstood illness so that everyone receives the best care possible. Charles Regional is here to help. Our Primary Care team can test to see if you have IBS and our Gastroenterology team can help you manage your condition. You can schedule an appointment with each practice today.