What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common diagnosis (25-50%) given to people referred to stomach and intestine specialists. It is reported to affect between 10-15% of people in the U.S. However, it cannot be diagnosed by any specific tests. It is diagnosed by criteria. The criteria are called the Rome II diagnostic criteria because a group of doctors meet periodically to establish rules for labeling intestinal conditions that have no diagnostic tests.
These conditions are called syndromes because they don’t meet the definition for a disease. They don’t have a specific known cause and/or diagnostic test(s). They are often referred to as “functional” problems. The cause of the functional problem in IBS is not known. By definition there is no abnormality that can be seen on a biopsy, x-ray, blood or stool test. The diagnosis is made by applying criteria after exclusion of other conditions or diseases of the intestine. There is not a universally agreed upon consensus for what constitutes an adequate evaluation to exclude other causes.
For IBS the criteria required to make the diagnosis is the presence of abdominal pain or discomfort that has been present for at least 3 months in the past year (not necessarily consecutively) and has at least two out of three of the following features:
1. The pain or discomfort is relieved with a bowel movement.
2. The beginning of pain or discomfort is associated with a change in frequency of bowel movements.
3. The beginning of pain or discomfort is associated with a change in the appearance or consistency (hardness or softness) or stools.
There are other symptoms that doctors use to support the diagnosis of IBS and to further divide it into three different categories. The three categories are determined by whether there is a predominant stool pattern of diarrhea or constipation or is the stool pattern alternating diarrhea and constipation. The supporting symptoms are as follows.
1. <3 bowel movements per day
2. >3 bowel movements per day (diarrhea)
3. Hard or lumpy stools
4. Loose, mushy or watery stools
5. Straining during a bowel movement
6. Urgency, or the sense that you need to rush to the bathroom to have a bowel movement
7. Feeling of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement
8. Passage of mucus or whitish material during a bowel movement
9. Feeling of abdominal fullness, bloating or swelling
Therefore, the diagnosis is made by a report of the symptoms and the doctor excluding other causes. The extent to which other conditions are excluded is highly variable and doctor dependent. Self-diagnosis of IBS should be avoided because serious conditions can cause symptoms that mimic IBS.
Theories of the cause of IBS are not proven. Serotonin, a chemical present in both the brain and the gut, has been suspected. An imbalance in serotonin has been blamed for IBS. Serotonin increases the contractions of the intestine. Several medications that either increase or decrease serotonin have been developed to treat constipation or diarrhea predominant IBS.
More recently, research has been focusing on the common report of many people with IBS of a distinct time that their IBS symptoms began, often after some type of intestinal infection such as food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea or gastroenteritis. This “post-infectious” theory has lead to theories of bowel injury and/or alterations in bacteria in the intestine.
An imbalance of “good and bad” bacteria in the intestine is a theory. Some are treating people with antibiotics and/or probiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria. Probiotics are live bacteria that are “good bacteria” like acidophilus and lactobacillus that can be taken as pill, capsule, powder or eaten or drank in yogurt or milk.
Food intolerances have been proposed as a cause of IBS by some, especially in Europe, but have not been accepted by most doctors in the U.S. Trials of elimination diets, with or without the use of food allergy or antibody tests have been reported in a few studies or a lot of testimonials to be helpful.
Lactose intolerance is a common condition that can cause symptoms that may be misdiagnosed as IBS and resolve with avoidance of lactose. Undiagnosed colitis or Crohn’s disease can be a cause of symptoms that can be diagnosed by colonoscopy with biopsy of the intestine. Blood tests for colitis and Crohn’s disease also now exist.
More recently, undiagnosed Celiac disease has emerged as a cause of what had been previously been diagnosed as IBS in as many of 20% of people.
Those with a diagnosis of IBS should be screened for Celiac disease, as it is a common condition, affecting 1 in 100 people. The symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea are common symptoms of Celiac disease and it is now known that untreated Celiacs can be constipated. Gluten free diet relieves these symptoms in people who are gluten sensitive.
If you have symptoms suggestive of IBS or have been diagnosed as having IBS it is important that you have an evaluation by a physician and other causes including coltis, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, and Celiac disease are excluded. Food intolerance should also be considered. Minimum evaluation should include a blood count, stool tests for blood and pus cells, screening lab tests for Celiac disease, colitis, Crohn’s and a colonoscopy. Talk to your doctor about the diagnosis and how other causes can be or have been excluded before accepting the diagnosis of IBS.
For IBS being as common a condition as it is, it is still surprisingly unheard of. There are thousands of people out there right now who are dealing with IBS and who don’t even know it because they don’t know what symptoms to expect with it and what it is all about. Well that is why you should learn more about this condition, the IBS symptoms that are associated with it, and other important details that you should be aware of.
What Are IBS Symptoms
IBS is irritable bowel syndrome, and this is a very common condition that afflicts men and women all around the globe, and even some children. It is a type of digestive disorder that many people suffer from, but few actually talk about, which is why it still goes so unheard of. There can be a lot of damage caused to the body as a result of this condition, especially if the person lets it go untreated and does not see a doctor and seek treatment.
There are a few common symptoms that are associated with this condition but more than anything IBS produces symptoms such as fluctuations between diarrhea and constipation. If you notice that you are suddenly having digestive problems off and on, such as not being able to go to the bathroom and pass a bowel movement or being on the other end of the spectrum and finding that you have diarrhea, this is the main characteristic of this condition.
Treatment Of IBS
Of course as soon as you even suspect that you have IBS, you should get in to your doctor right away. They are going to be able to talk with you, perform a few tests, and generally assess your overall condition and from this be able to determine whether or not it is irritable bowel syndrome that you are dealing with.
If so, they will move ahead promptly with treatment, because they know how dangerous this condition is the longer that it is left without being treated. Fortunately there are quite a few different treatment options that are available for this condition, and so you are definitely going to be able to get yourself better, even if it may take a bit of trial and error.
Dealing with this condition is often very challenging, but if you are working hand in hand with your doctor and doing research in the meanwhile as you should be, then you should be able to find a treatment that works.
IBS, Friendly Bacteria and Your Digestive Tract
- When you hear the word bacteria, what usually comes to mind? Illness and infection are what we normally think of, but did you know that our body has bacteria that keep us from getting sick? In fact the body needs bacteria in order to survive.Friendly bacteria, sometimes called probiotics, are responsible for digesting food, breaking down waste and making essential vitamins. They line the digestive tract to prevent harmful microorganisms in food and air from getting into the bloodstream and causing problems in our body. They help to increase the body’s ability to produce antibodies in our blood stream and work to make our immune system stronger. Friendly bacteria also produce natural antibiotics inside the body to provide protection against infections, like food poisoning, and take up space in the digestive tract, which helps prevent infection from fungus, unhealthy bacteria or parasites. By maintaining a large population of friendly bacteria you can:Reduce or eliminate many skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and allergy related hives.
Provide protection from asthma
Reduce or eliminate the occurrence of seasonal allergies
Improve the digestion process and lessen the likelihood of diarrhea or constipation
There is a balance between the friendly bacteria and the not-so-friendly bacteria that must be maintained in the digestive tract. The friendly bacteria need to be in control. The balance between good and bad bacteria in the digestive system is the determined by our choices of food and lifestyle. There is a well known quote by Hippocrates that says “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food” that describes the need for friendly bacteria quite well. The healthier you choose to eat and live your life, the more friendly bacteria you will have inside your body.
There are several causes of the destruction of friendly bacteria in the gut. Use of antibiotics is a main cause. Antibiotics kill all kinds of bacteria, causing Candida overgrowth in the body because the friendly bacteria is depleted and can no longer keep the Candida in check. This is why yeast infections are so common in people who are on or have just finished taking antibiotics. Other causes of friendly bacteria depletion are:
Eating foods high in sugar or sweeteners and regular consumption of refined or processed, prepackaged foods.
Drinking alcohol on a regular basis
Not fully chewing your food before swallowing
Use of steroids, antacids, laxatives or oral contraceptives
Drinking chlorinated water and swimming in chlorinated pools
Friendly bacteria support a healthy body by limiting the growth of harmful bacteria, fungus, and other microorganisms. They also promote good digestion and strengthen the immune system. Irritable bowel disorders are often caused by a lack of friendly bacteria in the digestive system. Increasing the presence of friendly bacteria can help normalize bowel movements.
Friendly bacteria have been known to relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance, combat Candida overgrowth and irritable bowl symptoms. They can also help prevent vaginal and bladder infections and even allergies. Taking digestive supplements and eating foods fortified with live bacteria cultures, such as yogurt and fortified cheeses and milk, will help increase the population of friendly bacteria. Natural supplements, like those found in our natural IBS product review section, help to support and maintain a healthy digestive system in which the friendly bacteria can thrive.