Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is often referred to as a nervous colon. People who have it feel the sudden and unexpected urge to run to the toilet when it flares up. Although the topic itself sounds comical, it is not for people who suffer from it.
IBS is not a life-threatening condition. It is, however, a chronic gastrointestinal disorder with symptoms that cause persistent discomfort. While most people will not experience severe complications, it can significantly influence their quality of life and mental health.
For some, symptoms change over the years, but only when individuals learn to manage their condition. This article aims to discuss the prevalence of the disorder, its symptoms, and treatments to minimize those symptoms.
How Prevalent Is IBS?
The American College of Gastroenterology revealed that at most, 15% of the country’s population suffers from IBS. It occurs across ages, but is more prevalent in adults age 18 years and above. Usually, individuals don’t get diagnosed and treated until they reach the age of 30 to 50. And while it affects adults of all ages, it is primarily women who have the condition.
What Are Its Symptoms?
Symptoms of IBS vary between individuals with the most common affecting bowel movements. You can experience abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or both. You can also suffer from bloating, passing of excess gas, whitish mucus in your stool, and the feeling that your bowels still aren’t empty even after passing stools.
IBS affects the complex sensory and motility functions of the digestive tract. This means that it affects the involuntary contraction of your stomach and bowels. Understanding this is key to achieving relief for the disorder.
The first line of treatment for IBS should include general measures such as learning more about IBS, establishing an effective relationship with your physician, implementing lifestyle changes, and applying other forms of treatments.
Probiotics, Oils, Herbs, and Supplements
Studies have proven that probiotics, oils, and herbal supplements can help minimize the symptoms experienced by people with IBS.
Probiotics have live microorganisms that are similar to the good bacteria inside your digestive tract. They help maintain the balance of gut bacteria in your stomach. In addition, oils and herbs, especially peppermint, help relax intestinal muscles and reduce abdominal pain.
Your physician may recommend these alternative treatments for you. If not, you can inquire about them. You should get the appropriate dosage and period for how long you can use these types of treatment.
Mental Health Therapies
Mental health therapies focusing on treating psychological and behavioral problems are also effective in helping treat IBS. However, they don’t work for everybody. They are ideal for people who are suffering from IBS and the mental and stress problems it causes. Effective therapies include behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, relaxation therapy, hypnosis, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT, relaxation techniques, and hypnosis are the most common mental health therapies use for IBS. CBT allows a person to manage symptoms of IBS, while hypnosis is applied to reduce discomfort and pain. Relaxation training, meanwhile, keeps the body calm, which has a positive effect on the digestive tract and bowel movement.
People suffering from IBS can benefit from the effects of acupuncture. It has been a proven effective therapy for chronic pain. Acupuncture needles revitalize electromagnetic signals in the body, encouraging the release of chemicals that eliminates pain. It also pushes the natural healing system of the body into action.
Acupuncture with other treatments is ideal. It is part of an integrative medicine regimen that also includes CBT, hypnosis, and relaxation therapy.
And, if you’re taking medicines for your IBS, acupuncture can help minimize abdominal pain. Talk to your physician about this treatment. Also, make sure you’ll go to a certified acupuncture clinic for your therapy.
Lifestyle changes have a significant impact on the lives of people with IBS. The disorder can be managed more effectively with a few improvements to how one eat and lives. Lifestyle changes in food and habits can help minimize symptoms by eliminating specific foods and adopting healthy daily routines.
Your physician may recommend changes in eating habits such as eating more fiber, avoiding gluten and dairy products, and adopting a low FODMAP (low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet. Your daily routine, meanwhile, should include getting enough sleep, reducing stressful situations, and increasing exercise.
The Truth About IBS
There is still no cure for IBS. Doctors focus on minimizing symptoms instead. You can help your physician provide you with better care. Follow their recommendations, complement them with other treatments, and change your unhealthy lifestyle. It’s all for your own good, anyway.