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IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome – how to detect it and how to treat it






Globally, between 6% to 18% of individuals suffer from IBS. Some have mild symptoms whilst others are more severe. The condition causes uncomfortable changes in bowel movements and frequent cramping.


Different people report different triggers for IBS attacks. These range from different foods, to lack of sleep, both of which cause changes in the body’s gut bacteria.


These are the most common symptoms that could indicate that you’re suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome:


Painful abdominal cramps

This is probably the most common and significant symptom of IBS. In people who suffer from IBS, there’s a breakdown of the cooperation that usually occurs between the gut, the brain, the nerves, and hormones that work together to digest food. When this cooperation breaks down it leads to painful cramping of the muscles of the digestive tract. The pain is usually localised in the lower abdomen but can very well spread to the whole abdomen. It is unlikely however to be present in the upper abdomen alone and typically decreases following a bowel movement. The most effective way of dealing with IBS is to identify triggering foods but other treatments such as bowel relaxants can also help.




Loose bowels

Diarrhoea only affects a third of all IBS patients. In diarrhoea-predominant IBS, patients report being stressed out with the thought of sudden urges to have a bowel movement. They also report an average of 12 weekly bowel movements which is more than double that of people without IBS. The stool in such patients is particularly watery and, in some cases, also contains mucus.


Constipation

Whilst loose bowels affect a third of all IBS patients, the opposite is also true. Almost half of all those who suffer from IBS have what is referred to as constipation-predominant IBS. Once again, in this type of IBS, the communication between the bowels and the brain is impaired, making digestion slow, giving the bowel a lot of time to absorb water. All this makes it very difficult to pass stool. This is usually accompanied by abdominal pain and a constant feeling of incomplete bowel movements. Drinking more water, exercising, and increasing your intake of fibre and probiotics is the best natural treatment for constipation-predominant IBS. Laxatives are sometimes recommended, but these should only be used for a limited period of time.


The worst of both

In about 20% of cases, IBS symptoms include both constipation and diarrhoea. In almost all of these cases, IBS comes with chronic abdominal pain. These cases tend to be more severe than others, with flare-ups occurring more often and the pain being more intense. This type of IBS requires very individualised treatment and maintenance.


Inconsistent bowel movements

When stool goes through the intestinal passage at an abnormally slow pace, it tends to become dehydrated creating a hard stool. This is what causes constipation. On the contrary, when stool passes through the bowels too quickly, it does not allow enough time for the intestines to absorb water, resulting in watery stools, and diarrhoea. Mucus in stool is also a common sign of IBS. The presence of blood or very dark stool can indicate more serious conditions.





These are just a few of the most common symptoms of IBS. The list is not exhaustive and other symptoms include bloating and gas accumulation, chronic tiredness and having difficulty falling asleep, as well as anxiety and depression. If you suspect that you have IBS that is interfering with your quality of life, pay a visit to your doctor for a diagnosis. For this, you might require a full review of your blood to identify possible underlying causes.

At Clinipath, we can provide comprehensive blood work promptly and we recommend annual screening tests for effective diagnosis to ensure that you can maintain your quality of life. If you would like information contact us today on +356 21221355, 9985 2404 or send an email on info@clinipath.com.mt for more information.


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