Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal issue that affects approximately 10 to 15 percent of the world’s population. From abdominal pain to changes in bowel movements, IBS can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms. Let’s take a look at the most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptoms of IBS
Abdominal Cramping and Pain
One of the key symptoms of IBS is abdominal pain. Typically, the brain and gut work together to control digestion. Good bacteria housed in the gastrointestinal tract release hormones and activate nerves that control digestion. Any imbalance of good and bad microbes in the gut compromises the production of essential hormones. This causes the muscles in the digestive tract to become uncoordinated resulting in pain and discomfort.
You can minimize the risk of developing pain and reduce the severity of discomfort by simple dietary modifications. In certain circumstances, it is recommended that an IBS sufferer follow a low FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates derived from foods like beans and wheat and can be hard to digest. High FODMAP foods can cause bloating, abdominal pain, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.
Diarrhea and Constipation
Gut motility is the stretching of muscles in the GI tract. It enables food, nutrients, and waste to travel through the digestive tract. Any changes in contraction of muscles affects gut motility. Slow gut motility can result in constipation while fast gut motility can lead to diarrhea. Both issues can cause abdominal pain.
Diarrhea affects approximately one third of all patents with irritable bowel syndrome. Most IBS sufferers experience approximately 12 bowel movements a week which is almost twice as a normal individual. IBS can lead to a sudden urge to have a bowel movement and oftentimes sufferers avoid social situations.
Conversely, constipation affects approximately half of all individuals diagnosed with IBS. When digestion slows down, the body pulls more moisture from the digestive tract causing dry, hard to pass stools. While constipation is defined as having less than three bowel movements a week, producing daily bowel movements is most optimal for overall health and wellness.
Gas and Bloating
Irritable bowel syndrome causes changes in your digestion. There may be times when foods pass too quickly through the digestive tract, and there may be times when food goes slowly through the GI tract. These changes can result in excessive gas in the GI tract causing uncomfortable abdominal bloating. One way to reduce your bloating is to avoid lactose and other types of FODMAPs. Bloating, belching, flatulence, or a feeling of fullness are common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Fatigue and Sleep Difficulties
IBS can cause severe fatigue and low stamina. It can affect your social life and participation in leisure activities. Severe fatigue can also limit your ability to perform your work duties.
Irritable bowel syndrome has also been associated with insomnia and affects your ability to function properly. Insomnia includes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up feeling exhausted. A poor night’s sleep can in turn worsen your gastrointestinal symptoms.
Food Intolerances and Sensitivities
Irritable bowel syndrome sufferers often have food intolerances or food sensitivities which are quite different from food allergies. A food allergy can cause an immune reaction and the symptoms can be severe and sometimes life threatening. Conversely, a food intolerance or a food sensitivity is a delayed immune response. The symptoms are not life threatening but even 2-3 days after consuming a certain food a person may notice abdominal pain or discomfort. A food sensitivity test can help in identifying the foods you need to avoid.
Mood Issues and GI Health
Irritable bowel syndrome has been linked to both depression and anxiety. Researchers are unsure if having depression and anxiety leads to IBS or if the stress of living with irritable bowel syndrome leads to depression and anxiety. Either way, digestive disturbances, and anxiety go hand in hand, creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to overcome.
Stress and IBS are connected. Reducing your stress levels through effective stress relief techniques can also help alleviate the numerous symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Yoga or tai chi not only helps reduce the symptoms of IBS, but it also helps improve gut motility to promote bowel regularity. In addition, deep breathing exercises and meditation help to lower stress levels and inflammation throughout the body.
Ready To Seek Help for IBS?
IBS can prevent you from living a healthy, fulfilling life. Our integrative practitioners specialize in treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with a focus on identifying the root cause of your IBS symptoms. We will work with you to repair your GI tract and improve your overall digestive health and wellness. Our digestive health program includes dietary changes along with lifestyle modifications, as needed.