Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive issue that can affect anyone of any age. Twice as many women as men get IBS, and estimates suggest between 25 million and 45 million people in the United States alone are affected.
There’s no precise cause behind IBS, and only a few people are severely affected by the condition. Irritable bowel syndrome can, however, be difficult to diagnose, and patients often go years between the first symptoms and an IBS diagnosis.
Understanding the symptoms and signs of this disorder can help you recognize IBS so you can seek diagnosis, specialized treatment, and lifestyle modification to minimize its impact.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition that affects your colon, also known as the large intestine. Your colon works non-stop to turn the food you eat and digest into stools so it can leave your body. To do this, your colon reabsorbs electrolytes and water. Dehydration can therefore cause constipation or hard stools that are difficult to pass.
IBS is also known as spastic or irritable colon and spastic or mucous colitis, and because it affects your colon, the most significant symptoms of the condition are lower abdominal pain and changes in the form or frequency of your bowel movements. For most people, these symptoms are unpredictable, affecting their daily lives.
Common symptoms of IBS
IBS symptoms vary between patients and range from mild to severe. The diagnosis threshold is generally reached when symptoms average one day a week in each of the last three months, but there’s no definitive standard for diagnosis.
The most common symptoms associated with IBS include:
- Pain and cramping
- Gas and bloating
- Diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between the two
- Food intolerance
- Changes in your stools and frequency
- Mucus in your stool
- Moderate pain relief after a bowel movement
- Fatigue and difficulty sleeping
- Anxiety and depression
Because several different bowel diseases can cause similar symptoms to IBS, it’s essential to seek a medical opinion if you’re experiencing digestive problems or changes in your bowels.
For women, IBS may also be associated with hormones. Some menopausal women have fewer issues with IBS, but those who are pregnant or menstruating often experience more pronounced or severe symptoms.
When your IBS diagnosis is confirmed by a specialist at Northside Gastroenterology Associates, our team works closely with you to develop an effective management strategy that meets your needs. There’s no cure for IBS, but you can typically control your symptoms through a combination of approaches, including diet modifications, supplements, or medications.
Additional IBS management methods may include:
- Reducing caffeine intake
- Eating smaller meals
- Drinking more water
- Regular exercise
- Stress reduction techniques
Due to the range and variety of symptoms, not all IBS management treatments work for every patient. Your successful management plan may require periods of trial-and-error or a combination of therapies.
Working with an experienced team specializing in IBS is your best choice, so contact Northside Gastroenterology Associates in both Cypress and Houston, Texas, as your partner in IBS management. Call or click to schedule your appointment today.