Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Treatment
What Is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic gastrointestinal (GI) disorder characterized by symptoms of abdominal pain and discomfort, constipation and/or diarrhea. The exact cause of IBS is unknown and it is typically seen as a “diagnosis of exclusion.” Factors that may be involved in IBS include a suboptimal mind-gut connection and a disruption in gut flora. Triggers that can cause or aggravate symptoms include certain foods, stress, and gut infections.
Irritable bowel syndrome is the most common digestive disorder, affecting up to 15 percent of the American population. The Northwest Gastroenterology Clinic team treats patients with IBS and aims to help restore gastrointestinal function by alleviating uncomfortable symptoms.
IBS: Causes & Triggers
The causes of irritable bowel syndrome are not completely understood. Several theories suggest that the development of IBS may involve a dysfunction in the brain-gut axis, in which signals from the brain to the gut are altered, leading to changes in gut motility and sensation. Other theories suggest a disruption in your gut’s microbiome—a diverse community of over 100 trillion microorganisms— may play a role.
IBS can worsen with certain triggers, including:
- GI infections
- Intestinal muscle spasms or contractions
- Eating certain foods, such as chocolate, alcohol, milk, and gluten
- Hormonal changes, such as a menstrual cycle
The most common symptom of irritable bowel syndrome is abdominal pain or discomfort that usually resolves after a bowel movement. Additional IBS symptoms can include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Bloating or gas
- Mucus in the stool
- Changes in stool appearance
- Urgent bowel movements
If you suspect you may have IBS, your medical history combined with a physical examination and review of your symptoms will help in reaching the diagnosis. No specific test exists to diagnose IBS: it is a clinical diagnosis based on the Rome III criteria: abdominal pain or discomfort present at least three days a month for the last three months, and at least two of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain that improves after a bowel movement
- Changes in stool frequency
- Changes in stool appearance
Additional tests may be necessary to rule out other gastrointestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or celiac disease, including:
- Blood or stool tests to check for food allergies, bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease, malabsorption, and parasites.
- Upper endoscopy and/or colonoscopy, procedures that use tubes (inserted through the rectum) to view and take samples (biopsy) of the intestine.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Treatment Options
Treatment options for IBS are aimed toward symptom relief. Certain medications, such as anti-diarrheal agents, laxatives, or antispasmodics, may be recommended depending on your symptoms and their severity. Since symptoms of this functional disorder may be exacerbated by stress and/or trauma, others wellness strategies like therapy, meditation, yoga, and regular exercise are strongly recommended.
Dietary modification and improving nutrition are also helpful in treating IBS. Removing gas-producing foods or a trial of gluten-free eating may help restore function to the digestive process. A specific diet—like the low-FODMAP diet—can be discussed as part of your irritable bowel syndrome treatment plan. Changes to the way you eat may also be advised, including adjustments to meal size and how often you eat each day.
Seek IBS Relief Today
The Northwest Gastroenterology team is dedicated to helping you alleviate your IBS symptoms. We work to find a treatment that is right for you and your unique health needs.