Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that tends to affect people over many years. It is more common in women and before the age of 50. It is not life-threatening and can often be felt like a minor annoyance but in some people, it can greatly impact your quality of life.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown. It often occurs after a severe case of diarrhea. IBS is also attributed to patients with a particular surplus of bacteria, a condition called small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). The variety of causes makes it difficult to pinpoint one specifically as the primary cause.
Those with IBS tend to have bowel movement changes such as diarrhea, constipation or both. Often those with IBS would experience abdominal pain related to their bowel movements. Emotional stress and meals may worsen the pain.
The onset of IBS is thought to be triggered by infections or emotional stress. Even more specifically is major early life stress. Exposure to high stress events or periods in early childhood have shown to be associated with a greater occurrence of IBS.
IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion. In other words, testing and evaluation is necessary to rule out other possible underlying organic diseases that may be causing these symptoms.
Most often, treatment includes medications for symptomatic relief of their altered bowel movements and abdominal pain. Keeping a food diary and implementing dietary changes can be helpful. Relaxation techniques may also be helpful.
Similarly to the lack of a clear cause of IBS there isn’t an understood list of preventative measures. Avoidance of chronic high stress environments or acute stressful events is always a healthy measure.
The most identified risk of untreated IBS is prolonged exposure to pain and ultimately stress. That can further exacerbate IBS making the pain, discomfort and reduced quality of life worse.