Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that causes discomfort and altered bowel movement patterns, such as diarrhea and constipation. Although IBS does not damage the bowel tissue or increase the risk of other colon conditions, it is a chronic disorder that can interfere with a person’s quality of life.
Irritable bowel syndrome affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States alone, and women account for approximately 2 out of 3 of those who sufferer from the disorder. Both the symptoms and the impact of irritable bowel syndrome vary from person to person, but there are generally four types of IBS:
IBS-C – with main symptoms of constipation
IBS-D – with main symptoms of diarrhea
IBS-M – mixed, with both symptoms of diarrhea and constipation
IBS-U – unsubtyped or unable to categorize
Along with constipation and diarrhea, other symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain and cramping, flatulence, bloating or abdominal distension, and mucousy stool. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be unpredictable and contradictory, causing a person to limit personal and professional activities, thereby disrupting their physical, emotional, and social well being.
Managing irritable bowel syndrome
The exact causes of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown, and there is no specific test for it. Doctors diagnose IBS by running tests to rule out other conditions such as allergies, infection, reaction to medications, enzyme deficiencies, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Tests may include colonoscopies, upper endoscopies, stool tests, blood tests, and x-rays. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for IBS. Nor is there any single treatment for it. What might help one person manage their symptoms may not work for another.
Some people can control their IBS symptoms with dietary and lifestyle changes and stress management. Home remedies may include avoiding trigger foods, adding fiber to the diet, drinking plenty of water, and eating smaller meals. Others who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome require medical treatment, such as antispasmodic or antidiarrheal medicines, laxatives, or antidepressants.
Although stress and anxiety do not cause IBS, they can make the symptoms worse. Some people have found stress management to be effective in managing their symptoms. Techniques include meditation, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation. While these strategies can’t replace standard medical care or lifestyle changes, they can help address anxiety and relieve the stress that exacerbates symptoms.
Research and irritable bowel syndrome
Research plays a vital role in helping us understand and treat irritable bowel syndrome. The more we can learn about the condition, the closer we come to finding answers and treatments that work.
At Precision Research Institute in San Diego, we offer a wide variety of clinical research trials for a number of gastrointestinal ailments including irritable bowel syndrome. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with IBS, we may be able to offer participation in one of our studies. Your involvement could provide you with relief from your symptoms as well as a sense of purpose in aiding our research so that others may experience hope and healing.
For more information, give us a call or fill out our online contact form. Qualified participants will receive compensation for time and travel.