Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects approximately twice as many women as men. IBS is a complex issue that is influenced by stress, diet, and multiple physiologic factors. Symptoms may be impacted by the volume of food eaten, environment, medications, and hormonal changes.
Here are the eight most common symptoms of IBS.
1. Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain is the primary symptom of IBS. Pain is most commonly felt in the lower abdomen and may be constant or intermittent.
Medications that belong to a group of drugs which are called anticholinergics are often prescribed to reduce pain. They are usually taken before meals because pain often occurs during or shortly after a meal is consumed.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners view IBS as an imbalance of the body’s energy. They base treatments on specific qualities related to pain and other symptoms. Acupuncture, tai chi and qi gong are recommended by traditional Chinese medicine experts as means to relieve pain.
2. Change in Bowel Movements
Bowel movements may fluctuate. Some people who have IBS tend to have loose stools while others suffer from constipation. Many people who have a diagnosis of IBS present with alternating patterns of diarrhea and constipation. Stools may be flat and ribbon-like, or they may be in the form of tiny pellets. Stools may be hard, watery, or lumpy.
Changes in bowel habits often contribute to pain. Consuming adequate amounts of fiber can help to regulate bowel movement consistency. Medications may be needed to control diarrhea or constipation.
Ayurvedic practitioners differentiate multiple types of IBS. They consider the quality of a person’s stool when formulating a diagnosis and treatment plan. Interventions are prescribed based on stool characteristics, other symptoms, and a person’s basic body type. Fasting, massage, yoga, herbs, and other recommendations may be prescribed to normalize bowel movement consistency, frequency, and rate of passage.
Gas may cause distention, which is often referred to as abdominal bloating. It can be the cause of embarrassment and discomfort. Burping and flatulence may be excessive.
Gas may be relieved by pharmaceuticals and herbs. Herbs that help to relieve gas include fennel, dill, caraway, chamomile, and peppermint.
Specific foods are more likely than others to cause gas. Beans, cucumbers, and cruciferous vegetables are frequently problematic.
Keeping a food journal helps individuals who have IBS identify foods that are gas-producing for them, allowing them to avoid those foods. Some people can enjoy problematic foods in small amounts or occasionally by following a rotation diet.
Pressure may be due to gas. Sensations of rectal pressure may occur frequently. The need to defecate may be accompanied by urgency. Sometimes the bowels do not empty and a lingering sensation of fullness may occur.
Pressure and straining to move the bowels may cause hemorrhoids to develop. Pressure is relieved as other symptoms are corrected. Consuming a fiber-rich diet helps to improve stool consistency and bowel regularity. This can help to facilitate defecation and relieve constipation that results in pressure.
Anxiety increases other symptoms of IBS. It changes the energy patterns throughout the body. Stress impacts the speed at which stool takes to pass through the intestines. It affects the secretion of digestive enzymes. All of these factors are reasons why stress management is such an important factor in the successful treatment of IBS.
Having a chronic illness produces anxiety, and so a cycle may develop that results in increased anxiety and abdominal distress. Sometimes medications are prescribed to help relieve stress. Relaxation techniques and counseling can help sufferers of IBS break the cycle of anxiety and IBS symptoms. Tools and techniques that offer relief include relaxation training, biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, and guided imagery.
Studies show that improving time management skills, utilizing progressive muscle relaxation techniques, practicing breathing exercises, and engaging in assertiveness training classes help to reduce symptoms of IBS.
Many experts believe that interventions that help to relieve anxiety are the most under-prescribed and valuable tools available for the treatment of IBS.
6. Mucus in the Stool
Stools may contain excessive amounts of sticky, stretchy mucus. With treatment, mucus may decrease once the pattern of elimination is corrected. Homeopathy is sometimes employed to relieve mucus and correct other symptoms of IBS. Specific remedies are recommended based on a person’s constitutional makeup and specific concerns. Some of the most common homeopathic remedies used to relieve IBS symptoms include Argentum Nitricum, Asafoetida, Colocynthis, Lycopodium, and Nux Vomica.