What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

what is irritable bowel syndromeCommonly referred to as IBS, irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder that is characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort and altered bowel habits (whether constipation, chronic or recurrent diarrhea, or both). Between 25 and 45 million people in the U.S. suffer from IBS, and about two-thirds of IBS patients are female. If you need relief from IBS, schedule an appointment with Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM today.

What are the Symptoms of IBS?

People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and gas
  • Constipation
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea

The pain and discomfort associated with IBS always involves at least two of three characteristics:

  • Associated with a change in appearance of stool
  • Associated with a change in frequency of stool
  • Relieved with defecation

It is not uncommon for people with IBS to experience bouts of both diarrhea and constipation. IBS symptoms aren’t always persistent – bloating, gas and pain typically cease after a bowel movement, only to return. The severity of IBS symptoms can also range from mild inconvenience to severe debilitation.

What Causes IBS?

While the exact cause of IBS is not known, doctors and researchers have a few theories:

  • IBS may be caused by a disruption in how the gut, brain, and nervous system interact. While stress does not cause IBS, stress can worsen or trigger IBS symptoms due to the gut-brain connection.
  • IBS sufferers may have a more sensitive colon than others.
  • The immune system response to stress and infection may be different in those with IBS.
  • Hormonal changes may trigger IBS symptoms. The majority of IBS sufferers are women, and many can track the worsening and relief of their IBS symptoms in correspondence to their menstrual cycle.
  • Serotonin (a neurotransmitter produced in the gut) may act on digestive tract nerves. Those with diarrhea-predominant IBS may have increased levels of serotonin in the gut, while those with constipation may have decreased amounts

How is IBS Treated?

While there is no cure for IBS, symptoms can typically be controlled through dietary and lifestyle changes. Working with your doctor to improve your overall gut health can also help provide relief from IBS symptoms.

  • Dietary changes – Certain foods can trigger or worsen IBS symptoms, with the most common culprits including gluten, dairy, beans and spicy foods. Research has shown that some people experience relief from IBS-related diarrhea when they eliminate gluten from their diet, even if they do not have celiac disease. Other people are sensitive to certain carbohydrates such as fructose and lactose. Known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols), these carbohydrates are found in certain grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. Following a low-FODMAP diet can help relieve IBS symptoms. If you experience extreme gas and bloating, you should also avoid high-gas foods, such as carbonated and alcoholic beverages, raw fruit, caffeine and certain vegetables (including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower).
  • Lifestyle changes – Reducing stress, eating smaller meals, getting regular exercise, and taking probiotics can help relieve IBS symptoms. It is also important to drink plenty of water and get sufficient sleep.

For help treating your IBS, call us today at (832) 246-8437. Dr. Malhotra is Board Certified in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, and can help you achieve your optimal health.

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Check out Dr. Minni's interview on Channel 2's Houston Life Program!Watch Video