What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). It is a chronic condition characterized by recurring abdominal pain, discomfort, and changes in bowel habits. IBS is a functional disorder, meaning there are no structural abnormalities or visible signs of disease in the digestive tract.
While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, it is believed to involve a combination of factors, including abnormal muscle contractions in the intestines, heightened sensitivity to pain, and disturbances in the communication between the brain and the gut.
Causes and Triggers of IBS:
The exact causes of IBS are not fully understood. However, several factors can contribute to the development and exacerbation of symptoms.
- Gut-Brain Dysfunction: There may be disruptions in the communication between the brain and the gut, leading to abnormal sensations and motility in the intestines.
- Abnormal Intestinal Contractions: Individuals with IBS may experience stronger or weaker contractions in the colon, affecting the movement of stool through the digestive tract.
- Food Sensitivities: Certain foods and beverages, such as fatty foods, dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol, can trigger or worsen IBS symptoms.
- Stress and Emotional Factors: Psychological stress, anxiety, and depression can impact the functioning of the digestive system, exacerbating IBS symptoms.
- Changes in Gut Microbiota: Imbalances in the gut microbiome, the community of bacteria in the digestive system, may play a role in IBS development.
Symptoms of IBS:
The symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person and may fluctuate over time.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort: Typically, this pain is relieved by having a bowel movement.
- Altered bowel habits: This can manifest as diarrhea, constipation, or both (alternating between the two).
- Changes in stool consistency: Stools may be hard and lumpy or loose and watery.
- Bloating and abdominal distension: Many individuals with IBS experience bloating, which is often relieved after passing gas or having a bowel movement.
- Urgency and incomplete evacuation: Feelings of urgency to have a bowel movement, even when the bowel is empty, or a sense of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement.
- Identify and avoid trigger foods that worsen symptoms.
- Consider a low-FODMAP diet under the guidance of a registered dietitian.
- Ensure adequate fiber intake through foods or supplements.