April is IBS Awareness Month and we want to bring attention to this disorder that affects millions of Americans. This month, we want to educate you on the symptoms and triggers associated with irritable bowel syndrome and encourage you to get the medical attention you need. Most suffering with IBS never seek medical help. There’s no need to endure the discomforts alone and allow embarrassment to dictate how you respond to IBS.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder involving the large intestine. It is associated with extreme discomfort caused by bloating or cramping in the abdomen. IBS is often accompanied by diarrhea or constipation, sometimes alternating between the two. Excess gas or mucus in the stool are also common symptoms of IBS. IBS is usually a disorder that is chronic, but manageable. While few people experience severe symptoms, the common symptoms can still disrupt your life. IBS can be very uncomfortable, but it doesn’t harm your bowel tissue and does not put you at a risk for colon cancer.
What Triggers IBS?
There are three common triggers for IBS, and if you pay close attention to your lifestyle, you may be able to ward off symptoms before they begin. The first trigger is food. IBS does not necessarily indicate a food allergy or intolerance, but certain foods seem to affect people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Foods that contain wheat or dairy, citrus fruits, cabbage, beans, and carbonated beverages all appear to increase IBS symptoms. The second trigger is stress. Stress does not cause IBS, but symptoms are known to flare up in either severity or frequency during stressful seasons of life. The third trigger is hormones. IBS is twice as likely to occur in women, which may be why hormonal changes are linked to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Many women admit that symptoms are intensified during their period.
What Can Be Done?
While you may not be able to get rid of IBS completely, there are ways to treat mild symptoms. Most doctors will begin treatment by encouraging you to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle. Avoid trigger foods, or foods that cause bloating, by eliminating carbonated and alcoholic beverages, caffeine, citrus fruits, and vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Instead, fill your plate with foods that are high in fiber. Some people who experience diarrhea as a major symptom avoid gluten products, even though they do not have celiac disease. Drinking enough fluids every day, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep may help lessen the frequency and intensity of IBS symptoms. Exercise and sleep are also encouraged to help you manage stress in your life. In severe cases of IBS, medication may be prescribed as well as nutritional counseling. However, more research is needed in order to find the right medications for various cases of IBS. Regardless, you should seek out a GI specialist to help you manage IBS. Don’t continue suffering in silence.
If you are looking for a GI doctor in Jackson, MS, look no further than GI Associates. We have three convenient locations and even have a department dedicated to GI pediatrics. IBS affects children, too. Schedule an appointment with us today if you are concerned you or your child may be suffering from IBS.