If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you know the discomfort and disruption it can cause. IBS is a chronic condition that affects your large intestine. It can cause cramping, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea. There is no cure for IBS, so it requires long-term symptom management.
IBS is very common, especially in women. It affects about twice as many women as men. Signs and symptoms of IBS usually come and go in most people. IBS symptoms do not cause any permanent damage to your intestines or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes IBS, but it may be caused by several factors, including sensitivity to certain foods, bacterial overgrowth or abnormal movements in the colon and small intestines. While it hasn’t been proven, there may also be a genetic link.
To be diagnosed with IBS, you should be experiencing symptoms at least three times a month for a minimum of six months.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one test that can detect IBS. Your doctor will likely discuss your medical history and symptoms with you and do a physical exam to help determine if you have IBS.
Treating IBS is about keeping your symptoms at bay, so you can live your life without embarrassing interruptions. Often times symptoms can be controlled by making lifestyle changes, like eating high-fiber foods, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.
You may want to avoid foods that cause gas like carbonated beverages and certain vegetables. Some people with IBS seem to improve by eliminating gluten from their diet. A Mercy dietitian can help you with menu planning and tips on eating healthy.
Sometimes, IBS symptoms are severe enough to require prescription medicine. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking medicine.
Whether it’s medicine, lifestyle changes or a combination of both – your Mercy doctor can help design a customized treatment plan to keep your IBS symptoms in check and keep you living life to its fullest.