There are times when the pharmaceutical-related commercials may make you pause to wonder, “Have they discovered a new medical condition?”
More likely than not, it’s nothing new … it’s just been “rebranded.” In the case of an ailment associated with abdominal pain and irregular bowel habits, the terms, “IBS colitis,” “mucous colitis,” “spastic colon,” “nervous colon,” and “spastic bowel” were commonly used.
Now it’s called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And if you’ve been diagnosed with it, you’re not so concerned about what it’s called as to how to deal with it.
According to the International Foundation of Gastrointestinal Disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal (GI) effecting between 25 – 40 million people in the United States, 60 percent of whom are female. It differs from Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a more serious illness that includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s which causes permanent damage to the intestine and may require surgery. In contrast, IBS can be described as a “short” in your body between the brain and gut; food moves too slowly or too quickly through the digestive tract causing discomfort, diarrhea or constipation. IBS can also be caused by bacterial changes in the gut or a severe infection.
That “short” in circuitry between the brain and gut may well be triggered by stress
While it sounds far fetched, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following as ways to control IBS:
- Studies have shown that psychotherapy with a counselor can provide significant and long-lasting reduction of symptoms.
- Biofeedback may help you focus on making subtle changes, such as relaxing certain muscles, to ease symptoms.
- Progressive relaxation exercises help relax muscles in the body, one by one.
- Mindfulness training helps focus on being in the moment and letting go of worries and distractions.
It is important to seek the advice of your physician about your symptoms and receive a diagnosis of this condition to ensure it’s not something more serious. Typically, treatment begins with management techniques. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may also be used.
While there’s no real “cure” for IBS, there are very impactful diet and lifestyle changes one can make. Recent studies indicate following a “low FODMAP diet” is a good start. FODMAP foods are not well absorbed in the small intestine and are rapidly fermented by bacteria in the gut. Other diet and lifestyle recommendations may include:
- Eating more fiber
- Avoiding gluten
- Increasing physical activity
- Reducing stressful life situations as much as possible
- Getting enough sleep
Regardless of what it’s called, symptoms of IBS should be discussed with your physician for further investigation. Our Gastroenterology experts are also a great resource!