For too long we’ve avoided discussing topics that seem uncomfortable or embarrassing. People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome mention it in hushed tones in the secrecy of a doctor’s office. Conversations about bowel movements and abdominal discomfort are sometimes deemed inappropriate, so many people who do suffer from IBS never say a word. April is IBS Awareness Month so that those who endure the effects of IBS can speak about it freely and find solidarity among other IBS sufferers. Are you experiencing symptoms of IBS? Do you need a GI specialist to help you navigate the road ahead of you?
What Causes IBS?
There is no known cause for irritable bowel syndrome, but there are several things that may cause symptoms to increase. While the majority of these triggers can be adjusted or avoided, there is one that cannot—hormones. Hormones tend to trigger IBS symptoms in women. Women are actually twice as likely to suffer from IBS than men, and many women claim that their symptoms are worse during their menstruation cycle. Stress is another trigger that increases symptoms of IBS. Stress cannot always be avoided, but there are steps you can take to minimize the effect stress has on your symptoms. The final trigger is foods that promote gas. It’s important to note that if you experience symptoms of IBS after eating a specific type of food, it does not necessarily mean that you have an allergy or intolerance to that food. Foods that commonly affect those with IBS include dairy products, wheat products, citrus fruits, and vegetables like beans and cabbage. You may also experience an onset of symptoms after drinking milk or carbonated beverages.
What are the Symptoms of IBS?
The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary from person to person and can even show up in various levels of severity. Symptoms include abdominal cramping or bloating, excess gas, and mucus in the stool. IBS is most commonly associated with diarrhea or constipation and sometimes even a combination of both. Most people experience mild symptoms as a result of the triggers discussed above. While IBS symptoms are not constant, the disorder itself is chronic. The embarrassment and discomfort you feel during flare-ups of IBS is the most harmful part. While IBS may interrupt your life, it does not raise your risk for colon cancer or damage the tissue in your intestine. Still, you’ll want to do everything in your power to avoid—or at least minimize—your symptoms.
How Can I Minimize Symptoms?
In severe cases, medication can be provided. However, more research is needed in order to determine which medications will be the most successful and offer the fewest amount of side effects. You do have the power to minimize your symptoms by making a few lifestyle and diet adjustments. To avoid intensified symptoms provoked by stress, make sure that you are getting enough sleep and exercising on a regular basis. Be sure that you are drinking enough fluids every day and eating foods that are high in fiber. As you talk to your doctor about your symptoms and triggers, be prepared to cut some things out of your diet. Avoiding gluten—even if you do not have celiac disease—may help you gain control over flare-ups of diarrhea. If one of your main symptoms is bloating or excessive gas, you may need to skip carbonated or alcoholic drinks, caffeine, raw fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
There’s no need to endure the symptoms of IBS isolated and silent. Don’t be afraid to speak up about your discomfort. Let Dr. Islam help you navigate this road. Schedule an appointment today.