Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder affecting the large intestine. It is a condition characterized by abdominal distress linked with modified bowel movements. Although not considered a life-threatening condition, it is a chronic disorder that needs long-term management. IBS usually comes and goes throughout life, which may bring frustration and discomfort.
Irritable bowel syndrome is different from inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. It doesn’t cause damage in your bowel tissues or increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Some patients can control their symptoms through proper diet, lifestyle changes, and stress management. Patients with severe cases may need to take medication and counseling.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Many IBS patients experience the onset of symptoms during childhood or young adulthood. The symptoms of IBS can also emerge after a severe intestinal infection or post-infectious IBS. However, this is a less commonly reported cause. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may differ for each patient, but the most common ones are:
- Abdominal cramps, pain, or bloating that is usually dismissed or partially relieved after a bowel movement
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Excessive gas
- Mucus in the stool
These symptoms may fluctuate. Patients may feel worsening symptoms at times. They may also experience symptoms unrelated to intestinal problems, such as:
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Sleep irregularities
- Fibromyalgia symptoms
- Anxiety or depression
Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
While the precise cause of irritable bowel syndrome remains unknown, there are factors that play a role in its occurrence. These factors include:
Contractions in the Intestine
The intestinal walls are lined with muscles that contract to move food along your digestive tract. Weak contractions can lead to slow food passage and hard stools. On the other hand, contractions that last longer and are stronger than usual cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
IBS is also linked with bacterial overgrowth or a surplus of intestinal bacteria in the body. A severe episode of diarrhea caused by bacteria or a virus may also lead to IBS afterward.
Changes in the Microflora
Microflora plays a significant role in your health. It lives in the intestines and is known to be the “good” bacteria. Research shows that there is a difference between the microflora in people with irritable bowel syndrome and those without it.
Some people with IBS have a higher number of immune system cells in their intestines. A stronger immune system response could bring pain and diarrhea.
Abnormalities in the Nervous System
Your body can experience an overreaction to changes normally occurring during the digestive process when signals between your brain and intestines are not coordinated. Due to this, you may experience constipation, diarrhea, and pain. Irregularities in the nerves of your digestive system can also cause discomfort.
IBS Symptoms Triggers
Many people experience worsening IBS symptoms when they consume certain foods or drinks. Some examples are wheat, citrus fruits, dairy, cabbage, or carbonated beverages.
Women are twice as likely to have IBS, and this may indicate that hormonal fluctuations play a part in the disorder. During or around menstrual periods, women may experience worse IBS symptoms.
Stress doesn’t cause IBS, however, it intensifies the symptoms you may experience. People with IBS have endured severe and frequent symptoms during times of heightened stress.
IBS Risk Factors
You are also more likely to have IBS symptoms if the following applies to you:
- Family members with IBS. Shared factors such as the combination of genes and familial environment may increase your risk of developing IBS.
- IBS is more common to women. Estrogen therapy before or after menopause may also put you at risk of developing IBS.
- Irritable bowel syndrome is more common among people under the age of 50.
- Mental health problems. Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, among others, are associated with IBS.
Gastroenterologists in Carlisle, Pennsylvania
There are several factors that contribute to the development of IBS. When IBS symptoms prevent you from living a comfortable life, you must consult with health professionals right away.
At Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates, we specialize in the diagnosis and management of digestive disorders. Along with our board-certified and fellowship-trained team, we make sure to provide you quality and patient-centered service. You can contact us by calling (717) 245-2228 or filling out our appointment request form.