Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that interferes with the normal functioning of the large intestine. It is characterised by a group of symptoms – bloating, abdominal cramps or pains, constipation and diarrhoea, feelings that you have not completely emptied the bowel, and alternating constipation and diarrhoea. IBS was equally defined as a condition that is highly undiagnosed in many people, and it is not a disease but a functional disorder, meaning that the bowels do not work as they should. IBS is capable of causing discomfort and distress to people, but it does not permanently harm the intestine or lead to any serious diseases like cancer or intestinal bleeding.
The large bowel has in its muscular walls, a vast array of nerves that connect to the brain. These nerves control the rhythmic actions of the large bowel, which may result in abdominal discomfort in stressful times. It is a similar effect of stress that makes people have “butterflies” or cramps when they are nervous or upset. Also, during stressful situations, there is an increased sensitivity to sensations that are rise in the large bowel, making the stressed person to perceive such sensations to be unpleasant. How is IBS treated? Most will be able to control their symptoms through control of stress, diet and medications. But for some other people, it may be so bad that they may be unable to go to social events or travel even short distances.
- Stress Control: This may involve counselling and support, stress reduction training, regular exercises, adequate rest or sleep, and effecting changes in stressful situations.
- Dietary Changes: Many IBS patients find that careful eating helps to reduce episodes of IBS symptoms. Avoiding or reducing the intake of meals that provoke symptoms can be helpful. Increasing fibre intake may help constipation but may not be much help for pains and diarrhoea. Common sources of fibre include wholegrain bread, fruits, vegetables and cereals. These help to increase the bulk of degraded food substances in the bowel, keep the bowel slightly distended, therefore helping to prevent spasms.
- Drugs: Use of antispasmodics is essential in reducing pain and diarrhoea. Tranquillisers and antidepressants are also useful in cases of stress.
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