Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

Coping with IBS: Understanding the invisible condition, finding relief

IBS is on the rise in India. With 4 to 7 per cent of the population affected by it, researchers are yet to decode the causes for this disorder. Here's what we know:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) does not come with a handbook. When you are diagnosed, you aren't likely to know all the ways to cope with the condition. It's invisible, chronic, and involves embarrassing physical symptoms. The exact cause of IBS can be tricky to determine, and the gastrointestinal problem may have roots in lifestyle issues, food intolerances, changes in composition of gut bacteria and abnormalities in digestive system nerves among others.

If you have unexplained bloating and stomach pain for an extended period of time, you must get yourself checked for IBS. This common disorder affects 5 to 10 per cent of the global population, or up to 1 in 10 people worldwide. Vice-chairman, Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Piyush Ranjan, says,

“The rise in incidence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is due to change in dietary habits in form of ultra-processed food, hectic lifestyle and addictions. I have seen a gradual increase among young patients in the age group of 22–40 years, seeking medical help for IBS.”

Things to avoid

Stop Eating Junk Food

The relationship between IBS and food is far from clear-cut; most of the people who have found significant relief from IBS will tell you that they have cut out all junk food. Avoiding this type of under-nourishing food may work wonders for you, as you will be fueling your body with more wholesome options.

Stop unnecessary diet restriction

It is essential to remember that there are a variety of things that can trigger IBS symptoms such as stress hormonal changes, or simply eating a large meal. When you significantly restrict your diet to only foods that you feel are "safe," you run the risk of nutritional deficiency.

Don’t avoid fibre

Make fiber your friend. It is essential for overall digestive health and helps to soften the stool, which is helpful for constipation, and firm up the stool, which is helpful for diarrhea. . You can increase dietary fiber by ingesting whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Avoid unsympathetic healthcare providers

IBS is a functional disorder and some healthcare providers have difficulty treating IBS patients with patience and empathy. However, the quality of the healthcare provider-patient relationship may influence how well or poorly you feel.

Stop being embarassed

Every person on the planet deals with digestive symptoms. You are not defined by the fact that you have troublesome intestines. Don't worry that other people will judge you. If you pass gas, oh well. Excuse yourself and get on with your day.

Symptoms

• Abdominal pain or cramps, usually related to defecation

• Excessive gas, flatulence, and bloating

• Diarrhoea or constipation or alternating between the two

• Mucus in stools

• Sense of incomplete evacuation even after defecation

• Vomiting and Nausea

• Fatigue and general weakness

• Mood changes, depression and anxiety

Types of IBS

• IBS with constipation (IBS-C): when stools are hard and lumpy.

• IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D): when stools are loose and watery.

• IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M): when both hard and lumpy bowel movements and loose and watery movements occur on different occasions.

What causes IBS?

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes IBS. It is classified as a neuro gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. IBS conditions have to do with problems with how your gut and brain coordinate to help your digestive system work.

Dysmotility: You may have problems with how your gastrointestinal (GI )muscles contract and move food through your GI tract.

Visceral hypersensitivity: You may have extra-sensitive nerves in your GI tract. People with IBS tend to have a lower pain tolerance.

Other potential causes include severe infections, food intolerance, anxiety and childhood stress.

Diagnosis

• A comprehensive physical exam

• Lab investigations within normal limits

• Colonoscopy

• Endoscopy

• Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

• Blood investigations

• Hydrogen breath test

• Stool test

• Rule out food allergies

Treatment

Dietary modifications: Identifying and avoiding trigger foods such as certain types of carbohydrates, caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods can help alleviate symptoms.

Stress management: Stress can exacerbate symptoms of IBS, so it is important to find strategies to manage stress levels. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and regular exercise can help reduce stress.

Medications: Over-the-counter medication such as antispasmodics and laxatives can provide temporary relief from symptoms.

Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria can help restore the natural balance of the gut microbiota, potentially improving digestion.

Alternative therapies: Some individuals could find relief from treatments such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and herbal remedies. However, the effectiveness of these treatments can vary.

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The New Indian Express
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