Are Your Digestion Troubles Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive condition that impacts the colon. Most people experience digestive troubles at some point in their lives, but it’s usually short-lived and resolves on its own.

If you’re dealing with digestive issues that haven’t resolved, or seem to resolve only to return, it’s best to schedule a visit with a digestive specialist to get to the bottom of things. Gastroenterologist Vikram S Jayanty, MD is backed by over three decades of experience diagnosing and managing a full range of digestive diseases, including IBS, which is a functional bowel disorder. Knowing the signs and symptoms will help you know when to see a specialist.

What is IBS?

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that primarily affects the colon, or large intestine. IBS, unlike other GI disorders, doesn’t damage the intestines. It's a brain-gut disorder in which the brain and gut don't work together as well as they should, leading to increased gut sensitivity.

Although the condition isn't life-threatening, it can last a long time, and if the symptoms aren't treated, they can have a negative impact on your quality of life.

Based on the primary symptoms, IBS can be divided into three categories:

Constipation is the primary symptom in IBS-C, while diarrhea is the primary issue in IBS-D. Some patients alternate between diarrhea and constipation, along with having other IBS symptoms (IBS-mixed).

Symptoms of IBS

IBS causes a wide range of gastrointestinal issues. These include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal discomfort

While most people experience one or more of these symptoms on occasion, this doesn’t necessarily indicate they have IBS. People who have symptoms that are persistent and severe enough can meet the criteria for an IBS diagnosis.

Here are some ways to tell that you may be dealing with IBS instead of typical digestive issues:

  • Change in stool
  • Symptoms last three months or longer
  • Symptoms are persistent or cyclical
  • Symptoms disrupt your everyday life

To diagnose IBS, Dr. Jayanty takes a thorough medical history, asks about your symptoms, and orders relevant tests. Much of the testing is to rule out more serious conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Expect to discuss the severity and frequency of your symptoms as well as a few other details. For example, experiencing symptoms during the day is more typical of IBS than IBD, where someone might wake up in the middle of the night with diarrhea. Other indicators that it's IBD rather than IBS include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Bloody stool

To check for inflammatory markers, your Dr. Vayanty may perform blood and stool tests. If these tests come back normal, you may have IBS rather than IBD.

Causes of IBS

Experts aren't sure what causes IBS, but there are some risk factors to consider, including:

  • Intestinal infections
  • Bacterial overgrowth
  • Certain medications

Additionally, some health conditions (e.g. migraine) can cause digestive hypersensitivity.

Treatment of IBS

You can begin your journey to IBS relief after Dr. Vayanty has ruled out other GI conditions like IBD. There are several treatments that help people with IBS live more comfortably by reducing flare-ups and symptoms.

Antispasmodic medications relax the muscles of the digestive tract and relieve the cramping.

Anti-constipation medications help get more fluid into your gut, which can relieve constipation.

Anti-diarrhea medications can slow the passage of waste through your colon while also reducing bowel contractions.

Lifestyle change tips

A change in diet helps many people control their symptoms. Here are some tips:

Increase fiber intake

Fiber is especially important for people who suffer from IBS-C. Fiber can help you have more regular bowel movements by bulking up your stools. If you're having trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, a fiber supplement can help.

Foods to avoid if you have IBS symptoms

Avoiding foods and drinks high in sugars called fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPS) is incredibly helpful for relieving IBS symptoms. Foods high in FODMAPS to steer clear of include:

  • Certain fruits (apples, mangos, pears, and peaches)
  • Certain vegetables (Brussels sprouts, onion, broccoli, asparagus, and cauliflower)
  • Soy products
  • Wheat
  • Garlic
  • Legumes
  • Dairy foods

Also, keep in mind the fundamentals of staying healthy. Getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and controlling your stress levels can all help.

If you’re struggling with digestive symptoms, schedule a visit for a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Jayanty. Call our Houston office, or book your request online today. We can help you get relief from your symptoms so you can enjoy your life.

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