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Stop the Suffering: How to Manage Your IBS

Article Date: April 11, 2012
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Written by Dr. Arvind Movva, Gastroenterology Consultants

Suffered by many, yet talked about by few, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is functional bowel disorder characterized by chronic or recurring abdominal pain or discomfort associated with a change in bowel pattern, such as diarrhea and/or constipation. Almost everyone suffers from intestinal symptoms from time to time. However, IBS symptoms return again and again, often without warning.

Irritable bowel syndrome is unpredictable. Symptoms vary and are sometimes contradictory. Those suffering from IBS may experience cramping or pain in the abdomen, constipation, diarrhea or both in alternation, bloating and gassiness, and/or a full sensation or general discomfort in the upper stomach area after eating a normal size meal. The severity of symptoms may range from mild to severe.

Whether symptoms are mild, moderate or severe, all IBS treatment should begin with education about the nature of the disorder. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not a disease but rather a functional disorder. Simply stated, the bowel does not work as it should due to a dysfunction in the connection between the brain and the gut. Therefore, the common assumption that IBS is caused by stress or dietary intake is false. Though both factors may contribute to IBS, neither should dissuade a person with IBS symptoms from seeking treatment. IBS is a long-term condition whose symptoms themselves are not life threatening. However, if not treated, symptoms of IBS can greatly affect the quality of life of an individual.

Having IBS gives a person something in common with literally millions of others who live with their disorder every day. There is no cure yet, but there are ways to manage though not always simple or straight forward. “Managing IBS symptoms effectively has been shown to significantly improve quality of life,” says Dr. Ashok Attaluri, a motility specialist practicing in the Quad Cities. If symptoms of IBS are keeping you from enjoying your daily activities, it may take some detective work by you and your doctor before finding a regimen that works best.

Managing your own health is obviously important. Research shows that supportive relationships are also important. Here are some tips to help you and those close to you live with IBS:

  • Don't spend time and worry about what your symptoms may or may not mean. Start by getting a definite diagnosis from your doctor.
  • Take an active role in your own health care. Learn all you can about IBS so you understand the nature of the disorder and different management and treatment options.
  • Use reliable websites to keep up to date with changes in understanding IBS and treatment advances.
  • Try to identify things that seem to make your symptoms worse and work on reducing their impact. Use of a diary may help to identify certain foods or other factors that cause symptoms.
  • Investigate non-medication treatments that may help reduce symptoms, like relaxation training, yoga, or hypnosis.
  • Find a gastroenterologist or motility specialist who will work with you over the long term to help you manage and treat your IBS.

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