Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experience troublesome digestive symptoms without any visible signs of disease in the digestive tract, and many people with IBS remain undiagnosed. If you have IBS, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans experience symptoms of IBS.
Because April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month, internal medicine specialist Dr. Samuel Fink is devoting extra time to helping patients understand and manage a wide variety of issues that affect the digestive system. Scheduling a visit to see a health care professional is the best way to get proper diagnosis and relief.
What is IBS?
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that features a group of digestive symptoms that occur together, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation alternating with diarrhea
- Mucus in stool
If you have IBS, your gut is more sensitive and the muscles in your bowel may not function properly. A problem with the way your gut and brain interact changes the way your digestive system works, leading to bothersome symptoms.
Three types of IBS
There are three main types of IBS. Knowing the type of IBS you have assists your provider in recommending a treatment plan. Certain treatments work well for some types of IBS but may make other types worse.
IBS with predominant constipation is classified as IBS-C. Patients with IBS-C experience abnormal bowel movements. Most stools may be hard, lumpy and difficult to pass or you may have too few bowel movements. To a lesser extent, you may also experience some loose, watery stools.
Patients with IBS-D experience significant episodes of diarrhea. A smaller percentage of stools are dry and hard.
Instead of diarrhea or constipation being predominant, alternating or mixed-type IBS is characterized by significant episodes of diarrhea and constipation.
Most people with IBS remain undiagnosed
IBS symptoms can significantly interfere with your daily life. Yet only 30% of people who meet the criteria for IBS seek professional help with their symptoms. Patients diagnosed with IBS are better informed about underlying processes that cause IBS and have greater success in getting proper treatment and relief from their symptoms.
Changes in gut bacteria may contribute to IBS
Despite the commonality of IBS, little is known about its exact cause. There is no cure. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms so you can have a good quality of life. With dietary changes, medication, and avoiding triggers, most people with IBS can lead normal lives.
Researchers are hard at work to better understand IBS. A study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine found a link between gut bacteria and symptoms of IBS. Your gut is host to billions of bacteria that play a role in the gut-brain connection. A disturbance in gut flora can result in bothersome gastrointestinal symptoms, and alterations in gut bacteria may contribute to IBS.
IBS can also develop after a digestive infection.
Many people with IBS report that certain things trigger or worsen their symptoms. Common IBS triggers include:
- Certain foods (dairy, chocolate, fried foods, fatty foods)
- Certain beverages (coffee, black tea, energy drinks)
Avoiding your triggers is a key part of managing IBS.
With the right intervention, you can get relief from IBS symptoms. For more information, we invite you to schedule a visit with Dr. Fink. Call our Tarzana, California, office or request an appointment through our website.