IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is a condition where patients experience discomfort or pain in the belly along with unusual bowel habits. For some, the bowel movements might be more or lesser than usual, and for others, they might pass a different kind of stool. Almost 25 to 45 million people in the country suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. Among them, the majority are women. An individual is more likely to be affected by IBS between their late teens and early 40s. The symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and the passing of mucus during bowel movements. This complex motility and sensory disorder has physical as well as stress-related dimensions.
Some people are able to control their IBS symptoms by managing their diet, altering their lifestyle, and controlling stress. Others might need the support of medication or counseling. Here are the various treatment options for IBS:
Changing the lifestyle and diet
Note that your dietary intake, as well as the stress-related factors, can worsen the symptoms of IBS. Discuss measures to reduce or avoid these symptoms with your health care provider or dietitian. Sometimes, even eating smaller quantities in frequent intervals helps reduce abdominal discomfort. Avoiding caffeine and including fiber in one’s diet can help one battle the symptoms of IBS. Adequate rest and exercise reduce stress levels, stimulate the regular contractions of the intestines, and increase positivity. If followed diligently, this can be one of the best treatment options for IBS.
If lifestyle changes don’t work, there are numerous medications available in the market that can provide relief from the symptoms of IBS. Even though antispasmodics have limited benefits, if you have the symptoms soon after eating, then such medication helps in relieving the abdominal pain. Consuming anti-diarrheal agents helps in reducing the diarrheal symptoms, but it might not be helpful for the pain associated with IBS. For a person with diarrhea-predominant IBS, an anti-diarrheal or antispasmodic medicine may be useful. Likewise, laxatives help in reducing constipation associated with IBS, but not the pain. One should take laxatives only under the supervision of a physician. Individuals who have psychological distress-associated IBS might find anti-anxiety medications helpful. A physician might prescribe medicines that are effective in relieving the pain that comes with IBS and improving bowel movements.
It is vital to consult a physician and have a thorough examination before taking medications. For people who haven’t benefited from lifestyle changes, it is better to consult a physician who specializes in functional GI and motility or stress-related GI disorders. Their analysis may help you understand the specific condition to which your body may respond.
Consuming probiotics and antibiotics
There are trillions of bacteria inside the digestive tract of an individual. Studies show that these bacteria can influence various aspects of one’s health and diseases. Therefore, consuming probiotics is considered as one of the best treatment options for IBS. It is especially useful in relieving symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain. Yogurt and dietary supplements are rich in probiotics.
Along with beneficial bacteria, a person with IBS may also have excess “bad” bacteria in their body. Therefore, such people can consume antibiotics as a part of their treatment for IBS after consulting a doctor. Antibiotics help in decreasing the number of “bad” bacteria in the gut, which in turn helps in relieving the symptoms of IBS.
As mentioned above, IBS may be associated with stress as well. Psychological and behavioral therapies are an effective treatment for some people who have IBS. The therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, and relaxation training give good results. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps a person regain their personal and mental skills. Hypnosis is helpful in reducing the discomfort and pain associated with IBS. Relaxation training relaxes the body in general. Other options such as interpersonal psychotherapies address one’s issues by interacting with others.
Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM)
Chinese herbal therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga are some complementary and alternative medicines. These treatment options for IBS have proven their effectiveness. Even positive provider-patient interaction in an acupuncture session can help reduce an individual’s stress levels.
Even though IBS does not trigger other colon conditions like the Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or colon cancer, it can be a long-lasting problem that can affect your quality of life. It is not a life-threatening disease, but those affected may feel less comfortable engaging in daily activities at work or school. There is no cure for IBS, and one can only manage its symptoms with medication, psychological treatment, and lifestyle changes. An individual can lead a sound and active life even with irritable bowel syndrome.