In gastroenterology, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or spastic colon is a functional bowel disorder characterized by abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits which are not associated with any abnormalities seen on routine clinical testing. It is fairly common and makes up 20-50% of visits to gastroenterologists. It is prevalent in all age groups from children to adolescents and adults. The symptoms might disappear suddenly or could reappear at any time in an individual's lifespan. Though IBS can result in great distress and inconvenience it is not life threatening like cancer or it causes any permanent damage to the stomach or intestines.
It is estimated that one out of 10 people, seeking medical aid, suffer from this condition. Many fail to show up any serious symptoms and it is rather a common ailment that accounts for 20-25% visits to gastroenterologists. The most prevailing symptoms include lower abdominal cramps and swelling. In many cases these discomforts disappear with defecation. IBS is more common in women than men. IBS should not be confused with other inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation of the large intestine. IBS, however, does not result in colon inflammation and is not as serious as colitis.
What causes IBS?
Doctors are not sure what causes IBS. The nerves and muscles in the bowel appear to be extra sensitive in people with IBS. Muscles may contract too much when you eat. These contractions can cause cramping and diarrhea during or shortly after a meal. Or the nerves may react when the bowel stretches, causing cramping or pain.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort are the main symptoms of IBS. However, symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people have constipation, which means hard, difficult-to-pass, or infrequent bowel movements. Often these people report straining and cramping when trying to have a bowel movement but cannot eliminate any stool, or they are able to eliminate only a small amount. If they are able to have a bowel movement, there may be mucus in it, which is a fluid that moistens and protect passages in the digestive system. Some people with IBS experience diarrhea, which is frequent, loose, watery, stools. People with diarrhea frequently feel an urgent and uncontrollable need to have a bowel movement. Other people with IBS alternate between constipation and diarrhea.
How is IBS diagnosed?
Your doctor may start by asking you questions about your symptoms. If your symptoms have had a pattern over time, the pattern may make it clear to your doctor that IBS is the cause.
Home Remedies For IBS
For people suffering from constipation, fiber supplements or laxatives are useful; while those suffering from diarrhea are found to be benefited from Anti-diarrheal medicines like Lomotil or loperamide. Codeine, though effective in controlling diarrhea could be addictive.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) - In India, ginger has been used to aid digestion and treat stomach upset as well as nausea for more than 5,000 years. This herb is also thought to reduce inflammation.
Dietary habits play an essential role in occurrence of some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The normal motility of an intestine assumes presence of such volume of intestinal contents which is necessary to excite receptors of intestinal walls. The volume of intestinal contents is determined first of all by the amount of ballast substances that hold water, absorb toxicants, stimulate motility, etc.
Aloe is commonly listed as one of the herbs for irritable bowel syndrome, as well as inflammatory bowel disease. It was not used historically for indigestion, but to relieve the pain from burns and skin lesions and to reduce swelling. Modern herbalists have found that when purified and concentrated it is effective for the relief of many digestive problems
While improving IBS is easily achieved through the addition of soluble fiber with each small meal, many IBS patients find the greater challenge is in the elimination of specific foods such as dietary fat, alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages.