What is I.B.S. (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder characterized most commonly by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer. Most people can control their symptoms with diet, stress management, and prescribed medications. For some people, however, IBS can be disabling. They may be unable to work, attend social events, or even travel short distances.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder seen by GI Doctors. IBS may affect up to 20 percent of Americans, or 54 million people. IBS appears fairly equally in people of all races, but it tends to affect women more than men, in fact three times as many, however, men may be less likely to report the problem.

The onset of IBS usually begins to occur in late adolescence or in early adult life. It rarely appears for the first time after age 50. For many, the condition is chronic, and symptoms can appear for months, then disappear, then reappear again.

For some, the symptoms are mild and for others, the symptoms can be quite severe and even debilitating.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by abdominal pain, excessive gassiness, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. Some people can control their symptoms with diet, stress management, and prescribed medications. For some people, however, IBS can be disabling. They may be unable to work, go to social events, or even travel short distances.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome may also be referred to as spastic colon, mucous colitis, spastic colitis, nervous stomach, or irritable colon. IBS is difficult to diagnose with traditional medicine, as it cannot be discovered through physical examination, x-rays, or blood tests. It occurs more often in women than in men, and it begins before the age of 35 in about 50 percent of people. IBS patients seem to fall into two categories:

1. Those who report that they have had symptoms since childhood.

2. Those who report the onset of symptoms after an illness, accident or specific situation.

What causes IBS?

Researchers have yet to discover any specific cause for IBS. One theory is that people who suffer from IBS have a colon (large bowel) that is particularly sensitive and reactive to certain foods and stress.

The immune system, which fights infection, may also be involved. research indicates that:

1. Normal motility, or movement, may not be present in a colon of a person who has IBS. It can be spasmodic or can even stop working temporarily. Spasms are sudden strong muscle contractions that come and go.

2. The lining of the colon called the epithelium, which is affected by the immune and nervous systems, regulates the flow of fluids in and out of the colon. In IBS, the epithelium appears to work properly. However, when the contents inside the colon move too quickly, the colon looses its ability to absorb fluids. The result is too much fluid in the stool. In other people, the movement inside the colon is too slow, which causes extra fluid to be absorbed. As a result, a person develops constipation.

3. A person’s colon may respond strongly to stimuli such as certain foods or stress that would not bother most people. Serotonin and the GI Tract Recent research has reported that serotonin is linked with normal gastrointestinal (GI) functioning. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical, that delivers messages from one part of your body to another. Ninety-five percent of the serotonin in your body is located in the GI tract, and the other 5 percent is found in the brain. Cells that line the inside of the bowel work as transporters and carry the serotonin out of the GI tract.

People with IBS, however, have diminished receptor activity, causing abnormal levels of serotonin to exist in the GI tract. As a result, people with IBS experience problems with bowel movement, motility, and sensation, having more sensitive pain receptors in their GI tract. In addition, people with IBS frequently suffer from depression and anxiety, which can worsen symptoms. Similarly, the symptoms associated with IBS can cause a person to feel depressed and anxious.

Researchers have reported that IBS may be caused by a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies show that people who have had gastroenteritis sometimes develop IBS, otherwise called post-infectious IBS.

The following have been associated with a worsening of IBS symptoms:
• large meals
• bloating from gas in the colon
• medicines
• wheat, rye, barley, chocolate, milk products, or alcohol
• drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, or colas
• stress, conflict, or emotional upsets. Researchers have found that women with IBS may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods, suggesting that reproductive hormones can worsen IBS problems.

How is IBS diagnosed?

IBS is generally diagnosed on the basis of a complete medical history that includes a careful description of symptoms and a physical examination. There is no specific test for IBS, although diagnostic tests may be performed to rule out other diseases. These tests may include stool sample testing, blood tests, and x rays.

Typically, a doctor will perform a sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy, which allows the doctor to look inside the colon. This is done by inserting a small, flexible tube with a camera on the end of it through the anus. The camera then transfers the images of your colon onto a large screen for the doctor to see better. If the tests results are negative, the doctor may diagnose IBS based on symptoms, including how often a patient may have had abdominal pain or discomfort during the past year, when the pain starts and stops in relation to bowel function, and how bowel frequency and stool consistency have changed.

Many doctors refer to a list of specific symptoms that must be present to make a diagnosis of IBS. Symptoms include:

• Abdominal pain or discomfort for at least 12 weeks out of the previous 12 months. These 12 weeks do not have to be consecutive.
• The abdominal pain or discomfort has two of the following three features:
• It is relieved by having a bowel movement.

• When it starts, there is a change in how often you have a bowel movement. When it starts, there is a change in the form of the stool or the way it looks.

Certain symptoms must also be present, such as:

• A change in frequency of bowel movements

• A change in appearance of bowel movements

• Feelings of uncontrollable urgency to have a bowel movement

• Difficulty or inability to pass stool

• Mucus in the stool

• Bloating

• Bleeding, fever, weight loss, and persistent severe pain are not symptoms of IBS and may indicate other problems such as inflammation, or rarely, cancer.

What is the treatment for IBS?

Unfortunately, many people suffer from IBS for a long time before seeking medical treatment. Up to 70 percent of people suffering from IBS are not receiving medical care for their symptoms. No cure has been found for IBS, but many options are available to treat the symptoms. A doctor will give share the best treatments available for particular symptoms and encourage ways to manage stress and make changes to diet. Medications are an important part of relieving symptoms. Hypnotherapy is non intrusive, safe, comfortable and a cost effective and complementary to use along side mainstream medicine.