Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS affects about 10% to 15% of the global population. This means that there are about 753 million to 1.13 billion people in the world who are affected by it. But what exactly is IBS? What are its symptoms? If a person has IBS, what treatment options are available to them? These are the questions that will be answered in this article.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that disrupts communication between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, leading to abnormal movements. It affects all genders, both adults and children, especially those below 50 years old. Although it is a common disorder, scientists are not sure what causes it. Symptoms differ among affected individuals, but some of the most common signs of IBS include:
- abdominal pain and cramping,
- diarrhea and/or (alternating) constipation,
- changes in bowel movements (e.g. water content, blood, etcetera),
- gas and bloating,
- food intolerance,
- anxiety and depression.
These symptoms may range from mild to severe. In some cases, IBS does not affect a person’s day-to-day life and activities. For others, the disorder can reduce their quality of life and prevent them from functioning normally.
What IBS treatment options are available?
There are a lot of IBS treatment options available for affected individuals, depending on the severity of their case. For some, antidepressants help with the pain. There are over-the-counter drugs that may ease your symptoms, while others need a prescription from a doctor. Non-drug treatment options are also possible. Activities like cardio and stretching exercises help some individuals affected by IBS.
For severe cases, your doctor may suggest surgery. At Guy’s and St Thomas’ Private Healthcare, GI services include:
- upper gastrointestinal surgery,
- thyroid and endocrine surgery,
- colorectal surgery,
- gastroenterology and hepatology.
Is IBS a life-long disorder?
Some people have chronic IBS. However, don’t lose hope just yet. It is estimated that about 10% of people with IBS get better each year. You may stop experiencing symptoms over time, especially with the right treatment.
How can I manage IBS in general?
There are a few things you can do to manage your symptoms. However, take note that the following tips are not applicable to all. You should listen to your body and consult your doctor to find a care plan that works for you.
That being said, you should identify food items that make your symptoms worse. If a certain food makes your symptoms worse, try to avoid eating it for one to two weeks and see what happens. Does removing this item from your diet alleviate your symptoms? A food diary can help you track which food items you have an intolerance to.
You can also ask your doctor if there are any medications that you can take to alleviate symptoms. If there are non-drug activities that help you, try to incorporate them into your daily routine.
It is a common gastrointestinal disorder, but there are things you can do to manage and alleviate symptoms. There is a variety of treatment options available for those who are affected by IBS. Consult your doctor for a more comprehensive care plan.