Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has many symptoms. No syndrome could be more aptly named. If you’ve experienced these symptoms, you know how painful and inconvenient IBS can be.
But you may not know why your bowel is so irritated. The truth is, even providers haven’t been able to get to the root of the problem.
What they do know is that IBS is common and chronic. And if you have it, you’ll need to find ways to manage it over the long term.
The good news is that the changes you will need to make to manage this chronic disorder will also increase your overall health and well-being. Better understanding IBS can go a long way in learning to live with it.
The Irritable Bowel
IBS is a disorder associated with the large intestine. Although the signs and symptoms of IBS can vary, the most common among them are:
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive gas
- Mucus in the stool
- Alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation
IBS Signs and Symptoms
Below are the causes that produce IBS signs and symptoms.
Irregular Intestinal Muscle Contractions
Have you ever wondered how food moves through your digestive tract? Layers of muscles line the walls of your intestines.
These muscles synch up in a wave-like rhythm that moves the food from one part of the digestive tract to another. This is called peristalsis.
When the rhythm gets off, you’ve got problems. For example, if muscle contractions are more robust and last longer than usual, you will end up feeling:
- Like you have diarrhea
If the contractions are weak, the food moves more slowly through the digestive system leaving you feeling constipated with hard, dry stools.
Nervous System Miscommunication
You have nerve endings in every part of your body, including your digestive tract. These nerve endings send messages to your brain.
If something has gone wrong with the nerve endings in your intestines, they may tell your brain you are experiencing high levels of discomfort when your abdomen stretches from normal gas or stools.
Because your brain doesn’t realize the nerve endings are sending bad information, your body will overreact to normal changes in the digestive process, and you will end up with:
Immune System Response
If you have an unusually high number of immune system cells in your intestine, you will likely suffer from inflammation.
Inflammation is a mechanism used by the immune system to battle harmful stimuli. In this case, it brings on pain and diarrhea. This response may be associated with food sensitivities, or the body could be attacking its own tissues.
IBS develops in 4%– 32% of patients with bacterial gastroenteritis (a severe bout of diarrhea caused by a bacterial or viral infection).
IBS development could be a response to infections caused by a variety of pathogens, including:
- Campylobacter species
- Salmonella species
- Diarrheagenic strains of E. coli
Bacteria Fluctuations In The Gut
Trillions of bacteria and microflora live in your gut. This is a very good thing as they help regulate your bowels, break down the food you eat, and contribute to your overall health and well-being.
Recent research suggests alterations in the number of bacteria in the intestines could contribute to IBS symptoms.
It’s even possible that people with IBS may have different microflora living in their guts than people who have healthy digestive tracts.
Know The Triggers
People with IBS must become well-acquainted with what triggers their symptoms. Avoiding triggers is a great way to prevent irritable disruptions. The three primary triggers of IBS symptoms include the following.
1. Food Allergies And Intolerances
Although the role of food allergies or intolerances in IBS isn’t fully understood, it’s clear food can play a role in worsening IBS symptoms.
Even though a food allergy rarely causes IBS, symptoms can be exacerbated by certain foods or beverages. The foods and drinks that may be the culprits depend on the individual. However, many people have aggravated symptoms when they eat:
- Citrus fruits
- Dairy products
- Milk and carbonated drinks
Increased stress, or our inability to handle stress in healthy ways, can negatively affect anyone’s health. In people with IBS, increased stress will worsen symptoms or cause them to happen more frequently. Like, food, however, stress aggravates IBS symptoms. It doesn’t cause them.
3. Fluctuations In Sex Hormones
Research shows that sex hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, can trigger IBS symptoms because they affect how your intestines work as well as how much pain you feel.
A woman’s chance of having IBS is twice as high as a man’s. If you are a woman, you may have noticed that IBS signs and symptoms are worse during or around your menstrual periods.
The reason for this is because IBS worsens as hormone levels fall, and your hormone levels fall to their lowest point during menstruation.
Risk Factors Associated With IBS
Although doctors are still trying to figure out what causes irritable bowel syndrome, they have determined that some things seem to make people more likely to have it than others.
- Being a woman
- Being older, as IBS is more likely to affect people in their teens through their 40s.
- Family history and genetic predisposition
- Emotional trouble or past trauma
- Eating large meals
- Eating while you do something stressful
- Having intestinal infections or digestive problems
- Using antibiotics, antidepressants, and drugs made with sorbitol
Although experts have still not gotten to the bottom of the underlying causes of IBS, you can manage its symptoms by making changes to your:
Many people have found relief from more severe symptoms by using medication and undergoing counseling.
We’re Here To Help
If you’re learning to live with IBS, we’re here to help! You are not alone on this journey. Our whole team at LivingWell Dallas is here to help you get clarity on your health and finally feel heard.
We’ll provide the care you deserve and long-term solutions to live your best life. Contact us today!