Do you struggle with symptoms of bloating or other gut-related symptoms but think nothing of it? More often than not, irritable bowel syndrome commonly goes undiagnosed. After a lifetime of fluctuation between bloat, gas, diarrhea, and constipation, sufferers sadly acclimate to their motility issues. Believing they simply have a sensitive stomach, these people don’t know to seek medical attention. That’s why April was designated as IBS Awareness Month, to increase education, diagnosis, and treatment.

If you’re living with these symptoms, you may experience a diminished quality of life. 1 in 7 Americans has IBS. That’s nearly 15% of the U.S. population or more than 30 million people. IBS symptoms can flare up unexpectedly and change over time, significantly interfering with day-to-day functioning.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of IBS?

While the cause of IBS isn’t known, we do know that many people with IBS also suffer from an overly sensitive or spastic colon. There are many triggers, such as certain foods, anxiety, and stress, however, triggers manifest differently in patients. You may consider a visit with a gastroenterologist after experiencing several of the following symptoms:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Stomach pain
  • Food intolerance
  • Fatigue

Those with IBS may also experience increased anxiety and depression, perhaps due to the increased amount of the hormone cortisol in patients who experience IBS symptoms.

How Is IBS Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing symptoms, your physician will likely provide you with diagnostic procedures and tests to rule out more severe conditions and concerns first—not looking for a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. This is to ensure that there is no underlying cause for your symptoms, such as celiac disease or colon cancer, both of which have symptoms similar to those of IBS. Your doctor would likely first order X-rays, blood tests, and stool samples.

Celiac disease is a disease where a person is extremely sensitive to gluten, and the symptoms can mimic IBS. However, celiac disease can be more severe if it goes undiagnosed. If the blood test returns positive for celiac disease, your doctor will perform an endoscopy and biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Alternatively, your physician may order one to examine your colon if you are above 45 and have not had your first colonoscopy. This helps rule out polyps, which are the precursors to colon cancer, and other problems like colitis, which can mimic the symptoms of IBS.

Your doctor may also order a lactose breath test to ensure that your symptoms are not the cause of lactose intolerance.

If your doctor can rule out other conditions, such as celiac disease, colitis, and lactose intolerance, a diagnosis of IBS may be likely. In most cases, however, the main course of IBS treatment is dietary and lifestyle changes.

How Is IBS Treated?

The primary way that IBS is treated is to avoid the triggers that cause a flare-up. For instance, if you notice that you are sensitive to gluten, even though you don’t have celiac disease, it’s wise to avoid gluten or to only ingest it in minimal doses so you don’t experience IBS symptoms. Some recommendations for IBS treatment include:

  • Increase the fiber in your diet
  • Limit dairy intake.
  • Avoid heavy use of caffeine and alcohol
  • Take probiotics and peppermint oil capsules

  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation

Regarding lifestyle changes, your GI doctor will tell you not to smoke, to exercise regularly, to limit stress, and to eat smaller meals more times a day. They may also recommend a food diary to determine which foods cause flare-ups.

Occasionally, diet and lifestyle changes alone don’t curb IBS symptoms, and doctors will look toward anti-diarrheal medications and medications to help with stomach pain to help manage symptoms. Antidepressants may also be an option. Your doctor may also suggest taking probiotics for gut health. If your symptoms don’t improve, you may require more testing to rule out an underlying condition.

If you are looking for IBS relief in the Jackson, MS area, take the first step and schedule an appointment with the IBS specialists at GI Associates. Don’t suffer in silence! We want you to live the most healthy life.

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