Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). IBS can cause a great deal of discomfort with cramping, abdominal pain, bloating gas, diarrhea and constipation. Irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t cause inflammation or changes in bowel tissue, and in many cases, can be managed by diet, stress management, and medication.
One in five Americans have IBS symptoms making it one of the most common intestinal problems referred to a gastroenterologist. It occurs more often in women than in men, and it begins before the age of 35 in about 50% of people. Only a small number of people will have disabling signs and symptoms.
The specific cause of IBS is not fully known, but there are several things that may contribute to this disorder:
- Contractions moving food through the colon can be stronger, last longer than normal and moved more quickly causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. In some cases, the opposite happens. Food passes more slowly and stool becomes hard and dry causing constipation.
- The colon of people with IBS is sensitive and reactive to certain foods. Many people find their signs and symptoms get worse when they eat certain foods.
- Stress aggravates and makes signs and symptoms worse.
- Recent research has reported that serotonin is linked with normal gastrointestinal (GI) function. People with IBS may have abnormal serotonin levels.
- Hormones in women may play a role in this disorder.
- IBS may be caused by a bacterial infection in the GI tract
People diagnosed with IBS may feel any combination of the symptoms below:
- Stomach cramps that come and go
- Urgent need to have a bowel movement
This is a condition that doctors diagnose only after they have ruled out other diseases or conditions. Several tests may be made to make sure that the symptoms are not from another disease. Testing may include:
- Blood, urine, stool samples
- Colonoscopy/Upper Endoscopy
- H Pylori Breath Test
- Lactose Intolerance Breath Test
- Celiac disease
- Food allergy testing
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Abdominal CT scan.
Treatment focuses on the relief of symptoms. In most cases managing stress, making changes in diet, such as eliminating high-gas producing foods and drinking plenty of water, and lifestyle changes, such as getting plenty of exercise, can help lessen or control symptoms of IBS. The doctor may also include some medications:
- Fiber supplements with psyllium like Metamucil or Citrucel.
- Anti-diarrheal medications like Imodium.
- Anticholinergic medications to relieve painful bowel spasms.
- Antidepressant medications.
Children should eat smaller meals more frequently through the day, rather than 3 big meals per day. Avoid some food like:
- Gas producing foods such as cabbage
- Fatty foods such as French fries
- Milk products
Increase the amount of fiber in their diet by eating more vegetables, fruits, high fiber cereals, whole-wheat grains, and beans.
*Consider meeting with one of our dieticians for a nutritional consult. Call (865) 546-3998 to schedule an appointment.
To help a child reduce stress, talk to them about things that trigger stress. The child’s school may have some suggestions or helpful tools. Some children may benefit from seeing a professional counselor. Consider meeting with one of our psychologists who can meet with the child regarding any issues such as stress, etc. Call (865) 546-3998 to schedule an appointment.