Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

When your life is all about rushing and full of a busy schedule, do you worry about abdominal pain at all? Do you take a minute to stop and think about these symptoms; abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, or even constipation? Do you feel when your bowels move abnormally? These can be signs and symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is one of the most common diseases found in working adults and middle-aged people. People with stressful jobs tend to experience the condition more than others. Most of the time, mere stress may not directly affect daily life. However, it is possible that stress is one of the factors contributing to the diseases, affecting your health and eventually your work.

Generally, the symptoms that indicate the need to see a doctor are abdominal pain, especially in the lower abdomen, abdominal discomfort, and abnormal defecation. This includes constipation and frequent diarrhea. It is also possible for some people to have mixed symptoms. Most of the time, the aforementioned signs and symptoms affect your daily routine, lifestyle, and work.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is defined as a group of symptoms that affect the digestive systems. Despite being common, people with IBS typically describe the feelings as uncomfortable and disturbing. The general symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, cramps, and excessive gas.

IBS is a chronic condition that progresses over time. However, it is manageable and rarely severe. Most people with IBS have mild to moderate symptoms. They can still carry on with their daily routine, even though the discomfort can be disturbing. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, you should seek professional help.

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The disorder is still considered to be idiopathic, meaning that the exact causes of IBS are still unknown. Nevertheless, there are several factors contributing to the condition.

In some cases, IBS symptoms are connected to other digestive diseases, as the symptoms are the warning signs of far more serious conditions. IBS can occur for a short period of time after the intestinal infection as well. Usually, the doctor will take a thorough medical history before coming up with hypotheses. Despite being idiopathic, it is worth knowing some factors that play major roles in developing IBS.

Risk Factors for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The condition is common among late teens to early 40s, with a high prevalence in middle-aged people. Factors that have influence on developing IBS include:

  • Severe digestive infection.
  • Food intolerance.
  • Emotional stress, accumulated tension, or anxiety.
  • History of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Family history of IBS.
  • Being female.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

Generally, Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms may seem similar to typical abdominal pain. However, there are still some distinctions worth mentioning that are unique to IBS. People usually experience Irritable Bowel Syndrome differently. Some common symptoms that you should know about are:

  • Abdominal pain. Usually, the pain is located in the lower abdomen.
  • Cramping pain or bloating.
  • Excess gas.
  • Abnormal bowel movements. Bowel movements that are harder or looser than usual.
  • Constipation or diarrhea. Sometimes, it can alternate between the two.
  • Your poop appears whitish (mucus on your poop).

When to see a Doctor

Even though IBS is generally considered to be unharmful, it is suggested that you go see a doctor these symptoms present:

  • Unexplained vomiting.
  • Weight loss.
  • Iron Deficiency Anemia.
  • Diarrhea at night.
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Fever.
  • Abdominal pain that doesn’t improve by passing gas or a bowel movement.

Complications of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Some IBS symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation can lead to complications. There are some examples that are worth mentioning:

  • Hemorrhoids caused by chronic constipation or diarrhea.
  • Mood disorders. Symptoms of IBS can lead to mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. On the contrary, mood disorders can also make IBS worse.
  • Poor quality of life. IBS can disturb your daily routine and put stress on your life.

Diagnosis for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It is recommended that you seek professional advice to properly diagnose IBS. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is manageable despite being chronic. Generally, the first step of IBS diagnosis is a medical history and a physical examination.

The doctor may start by asking you some questions, such as

  • When did your symptoms start?
  • How often do you have symptoms?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • Have you been sick or had a stressful event in your life recently?
  • Has there been a change in how your poop looks?
  • Do you have pain related to bowel movements?
  • Do you notice a change in how often you have a bowel movement?

After that, you may have additional tests to confirm the diagnosis. The tests include blood tests and stool samples. Sometimes, an X-ray is ordered to rule out other diseases that have symptoms similar to IBS. Colonoscopy is another method to examine the GI system, which the doctor may order as an additional test.

When do I need a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is the endoscopic examination of the large intestine and the distal part of the small intestine. The tube with a camera will be inserted into the anus, and pass through the rectum to inspect the state of the large intestine. This method is considered safe and precise. The image produced from this procedure allows the doctor to closely examine the organ.

Sometimes, your doctor may suggest a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is different from a colonoscopy. A flexible sigmoidoscopy will inspect just the lower half of the large intestine, whereas a colonoscopy is used to inspect the entire large intestine.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy vs a colonoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy helps evaluate bowel disorders, rectal bleeding, and polyps. The purpose of this procedure is mainly about inspection. On the other hand, a colonoscopy aims to examine the rectum, the entire colon, perform a biopsy, and remove small polyps if needed. Both methods help the physician determine the root cause and confirm the diagnosis with increased accuracy.

Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

How Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be treated?

The condition is chronic, but still manageable. Treatments for IBS generally involve lifestyle adjustments and diet control. It also includes medications. Because IBS symptoms are varied, it is suggested that you consult your doctor about which method works best for you. Your treatment plan should be tailor-made and personalized. Here are some examples of how to treat IBS.

Behavior & Diet Change

Changing your lifestyle.

The first step of IBS treatment is lifestyle adjustments. The adjustments can be divided into 2 main groups: dietary changes and activity changes.

Dietary changes.

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages.
  • Limit high-fat foods, such as cheese, milk, and fried foods.
  • Eat a lot of fiber-rich foods.
  • Do not eat in a hurry.
  • Avoid eating unclean foods and spicy foods.

Activity changes.

  • Quit smoking, if you do.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat smaller meals more often.
  • If you are stressed, try relaxation techniques.
  • Make a list of foods that trigger IBS symptoms.

It is noted that lifestyle adjustments can be difficult for those who have GERD. Avoiding certain stimuli can also be beneficial. Generally, for those who do not have severe symptoms, IBS will improve with time. However, people who experience severe IBS symptoms may need medication. Consult your doctor for the proper prescription.


Medications are generally considered for people who have difficulty adjusting their lifestyles and people with severe IBS symptoms. This also includes people with a high level of stress. It is advised that you get prescribed medications to properly treat the condition. Some medications that are worth mentioning include:

  • Probiotics. Sometimes, IBS occurs due to the lack of probiotics. The good bacteria can help improve the symptoms.
  • Medications for diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain. These medicines are generally advised if you are experiencing the symptoms. Most of the time, IBS symptoms are on-and-off. Take these medications when you have those symptoms.
  • Antidepressant medications for those who have depression and anxiety. People with the high level of stress usually have severe abdominal pain. It is suggested that you consult your doctor regarding the prescription.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Conclusion

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is one of the most common digestive disorders, with a high prevalence in middle-aged people. Working adults usually experience IBS symptoms at some point in their lives. The typical symptoms include abdominal pain, abnormal bowel movements, and changes in defecation. IBS is a chronic condition, but it is still manageable. It is suggested that you seek professional advice to confirm the diagnosis and get proper treatment. Additional tests, such as a colonoscopy, may be considered to help diagnose the condition. Most people find that the symptoms improve with time and lifestyle adjustments. If you experience severe symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.

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