What are the symptoms, seriousness and treatments of IBS?
IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome, a common disorder of unknown cause that affects the colon (large intestine). The main symptoms are gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea or constipation. Some people with IBS have alternating episodes of constipation and diarrhea. These symptoms can range from mild to very severe.
The large intestines of people with IBS become extremely sensitive to certain triggers, which cause spasms of the colon muscles. It is the spasms that seem to cause the symptoms. IBS also goes by several other names, including spastic colon and colitis. IBS, however, is not the same as colitis (or ulcerative colitis). Colitis means an inflammation of the colon, but there is no inflammation with IBS.
While a severe case of IBS can make your life miserable, it is not considered a serious disease. There is no inflammation and no signs of permanent harm or damage to the colon as a result of this disorder. It is possible, though, that chronic constipation could lead to the development of hemorrhoids.
The most effective treatment for IBS centers on lifestyle changes. Eating a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber alleviates symptoms in many people suffering from this disorder. It is often helpful to eat smaller meals more frequently, rather than large meals in one sitting. You should also try to identify and then avoid any specific foods that trigger symptoms. Common offenders are things like coffee, chocolate and dairy products.
Stress does not cause IBS and having the condition is not an indication of emotional or psychological problems. But stress can trigger spasms and so reducing stress and using stress-reduction or relaxation techniques are useful treatments. In some cases, doctors may prescribe or recommend medications to relax the spasms or ease the symptoms.