Woman suffering from stomach condition like IBS, clutching her stomach.

IBS: What is it?

By: Madison Bambini
Published: April 24, 2020

Suffering from stomach issues can be exhausting. If you find yourself with consistent abdominal cramping, bloating, and irregular bowel movements, you’re not alone. According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, 10-15% of the population worldwide suffers from IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a condition that affects the large intestine and can present itself in a variety of ways.

Symptoms of IBS

  • Abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating that is relieved after a bowel movement
  • Excess gas
  • Change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both

It’s also important to look to recognize symptoms you may be experiencing that may be caused by a more serious condition. Symptoms such as blood in stool, weight loss, the development of anemia, and excessive fatigue could be signs for something more serious than IBS.

What Causes IBS?

There are many different causes and risk factors for IBS, making it hard to determine the exact reason you may be suffering.

Causes

  • Infection: Many people can develop IBS after an infection of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Infections can be linked to bacterial overgrowth or a virus.
  • Nervous System: Often times IBS can be linked to the nervous system when the nerves of the GI tract are triggered. When the signals between the brain and the intestines don’t fire correctly, it may cause the body to overreact which results in pain, diarrhea, or constipation.

Risk Factors

  • Family History: If someone has a direct family member that has IBS, they could potentially develop it as well
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop IBS
  • Age: This condition occurs more frequently in people under the age of 50
  • Mental Health: Anxiety, depression, and/or a history of physical or mental abuse could cause IBS
  • Diet: Certain foods or drinks may cause flare-ups for those suffering from IBS

How to Treat IBS

Woman suffering from stomach condition like IBS, clutching her stomach.

Treatment for IBS differs from patient to patient depending on the severity of the condition. Initially, a gastroenterologist will ensure the patient doesn’t have another condition such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, or lactose intolerance. Once IBS is determined, there are several treatment options.

  • Medication: Depending on the severity, different medications are available to reduce symptoms and provide relief. Some medications are taken daily whereas others are taken as needed.
  • Dietary Restrictions: Diet can play a large role in alleviating symptoms. Start with avoiding lactose and keep a food diary. Food diaries can help you pinpoint certain foods that cause you to have symptoms (fatty foods, high sugar).
  • Counseling: Counselors can help you work through stress and mental health triggers by giving you different ways to respond to stressful situations.

Once diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, a gastroenterologist will help you determine the appropriate treatment plan, alleviate pain, and get you back into a normal routine.


About Frances J. Jones, MD, FACG

Williamsburg GastroenterologistFrances J. Jones, MD, FACG is a board certified, fellowship trained gastroenterologist with over two decades of experience. Dr. Jones specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of all aspects of gastrointestinal and liver diseases. She treats patients with acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and eosinophilic esophagitis among others. Dr. Jones warmly welcomes new patients to call and schedule an appointment with her at TPMG Gastroenterology – Williamsburg.

 


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