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Understanding the Different Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Understanding the Different Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) describes a group of symptoms that affect your digestive tract. You may experience bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea or constipation among other symptoms. IBS doesn’t cause damage to your digestive tract, but symptoms can cause significant discomfort and disrupt your daily life. 

If you have IBS, it’s wise to visit an internal medicine specialist like Samuel I. Fink, MD. At his Tarzana, California, practice, Dr. Fink provides comprehensive, patient-centered care for conditions such as IBS, which is a chronic digestive condition that requires life-long management. 

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, but certain things can trigger symptoms. In this post, we share what scientists think may cause IBS and explain how it's treated. 

Irritable bowel syndrome 101

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, meaning it has to do with a problem of how your brain and intestines interact. In functional GI disorders such as IBS, your intestinal tract may be more sensitive and your bowels may contract in a way that isn't typical, resulting in problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation.

Irritable bowel syndrome is divided into three categories, and the type of IBS you're diagnosed with influences your treatment.

The most common IBS symptoms are:

Additionally, you're at a higher risk of anxiety and depression if you have IBS.

What causes irritable bowel syndrome?

Scientists aren't exactly sure what causes IBS. However, results of a recent study published in Nature may shed light on the driving factor behind this chronic GI condition.

Researchers found that a previous infection with a stomach bug can cause changes in the way the immune system responds to certain foods. The team of gastroenterologists noted that IBS symptoms commonly start after a digestive infection, such as food poisoning. 

In the study, researchers injected mice with a stomach bug and then with egg white protein. After the infection resolved, the mice received the egg white protein again to determine if their immune system would respond. 

The results showed that the mice developed IBS along with food intolerance and abdominal pain. Researchers then performed the same experiment with a small group of patients with IBS and had the same result. 

This suggests that a digestive infection may cause sensitization to certain foods present at the time of the infection and trigger changes in the immune system that cause IBS symptoms. These insights pave the way for more targeted and novel IBS treatment.

Treating irritable bowel syndrome

Diet and lifestyle changes combined with medications help manage IBS. It can take some time and diligence to find the right combination of treatments to ease your symptoms. 

The following medications can relieve IBS-related diarrhea:

These medications can relieve IBS-related constipation:

Other medications used to manage irritable bowel syndrome include muscle relaxants, antispasmodics, and antidepressants. Lifestyle changes, including getting more exercise and managing stress, as well as avoiding certain foods that you notice trigger your symptoms also helps manage IBS.

Irritable bowel syndrome is treatable. If you have symptoms of IBS, we can help. Call our office to schedule a visit with Dr. Fink, or request an appointment online today.

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