Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Health Care and IBS

IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is a common medical problem that has received a lot of attention over the past decade, and you can see plenty of TV commercials about products to help reduce the affect of this health care issue. According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) refers to a disorder that involves abdominal pain and cramping, as well as changes in bowel movements.
It is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

There are many possible causes of IBS, according to the NIH. For example, there may be a problem with muscles in the intestine, or the intestine may be more sensitive to stretching or movement. There is no problem with the structure of the intestine. It is not clear why patients develop IBS, but in some instances, it occurs after an intestinal infection. This is called postinfectious IBS. There may also be other triggers. Stress can worsen IBS. The colon is connected to the brain through nerves of the autonomic nervous system. These nerves become more active during times of stress, and can cause the intestines to squeeze or contract more. People with IBS may have a colon that is over-responsive to these nerves. IBS can occur at any age, but it often begins in adolescence or early adulthood. It is more common in women. About 1 in 6 people in the U.S. have symptoms of IBS. It is the most common intestinal complaint for which patients are referred to a gastroenterologist.

Despite these uncomfortable signs and symptoms, IBS doesn't cause permanent damage to your colon, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most people with IBS find that symptoms improve as they learn to control their condition. Only a small number of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe signs and symptoms. Fortunately, unlike more-serious intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome doesn't cause inflammation or changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer. In many cases, you can control irritable bowel syndrome by managing your diet, lifestyle and stress.

For reasons that still aren't clear, if you have IBS you probably react strongly to stimuli that don't bother other people. Triggers for IBS can range from gas or pressure on your intestines to certain foods, medications or emotions, according to the Mayo Clinic. For example:

1.) Foods: Many people find that their signs and symptoms worsen when they eat certain foods. For instance, chocolate, milk and alcohol might cause constipation or diarrhea. Carbonated beverages and some fruits and vegetables may lead to bloating and discomfort in some people with IBS. The role of food allergy or intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome has yet to be clearly understood. If you experience cramping and bloating mainly after eating dairy products, food with caffeine, or sugar-free gum or candies, the problem may not be irritable bowel syndrome. Instead, your body may not be able to tolerate the sugar (lactose) in dairy products, caffeine or the artificial sweetener sorbitol.

2.) Stress: If you're like most people with IBS, you probably find that your signs and symptoms are worse or more frequent during stressful events, such as a change in your daily routine or family arguments. But while stress may aggravate symptoms, it doesn't cause them.
 
3.) Hormones: Because women are twice as likely to have IBS, researchers believe that hormonal changes play a role in this condition. Many women find that signs and symptoms are worse during or around their menstrual periods.
 
4.) Other illnesses: Sometimes another illness, such as an acute episode of infectious diarrhea (gastroenteritis), can trigger IBS.
 
According to the NIH, the goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Lifestyle changes can be helpful in some cases of IBS. For example, regular exercise and improved sleep habits may reduce anxiety and help relieve bowel symptoms. Dietary changes can be helpful. However, no specific diet can be recommended for IBS in general, because the condition differs from one person to another. The following changes may help:

•Avoid foods and drinks that stimulate the intestines (such as caffeine, tea, or colas).
•Avoid large meals.
•Avoid wheat, rye, barley, chocolate, milk products, and alcohol.
•Increase dietary fiber.

Talk with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medications, and beware of these other health issues:
•Fiber supplements can make symptoms worse.
•Laxatives taken for constipation can become habit forming.

No one medication will work for everyone. Medications your doctor might try include:
•Anticholinergic medications (dicyclomine, propantheline, belladonna, and hyoscyamine) taken about a half-hour before eating to control colon muscle spasms.
•Loperamide to treat diarrhea
•Low doses of tricyclic antidepressants to help relieve intestinal pain.
•Lubiprostone for constipation symptoms.
•Medications that relax muscles in the intestines.

Counseling may help in cases of severe anxiety or depression. Irritable bowel syndrome may be a lifelong condition. For some people, symptoms are disabling and reduce the ability to work, travel, and attend social events. Symptoms can often be improved or relieved through treatment. IBS does not cause permanent harm to the intestines, and it does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer. Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or if you notice a persistent change in your bowel habits.

Plus, according to FamilyDoctor.org, if your symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help you manage or lessen your symptoms. For example, if your main symptom is pain, your doctor may prescribe antispasmodic medicines such as hyoscyamine or dicyclomine to reduce cramping. Heating pads and hot baths can also be comforting. If diarrhea is a frequent problem, medicine such as loperamide (brand name: Imodium) may help. Your doctor may give you tranquilizers or sedatives for short periods to treat anxiety that may be making your symptoms worse. Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant for you if your symptoms are severe and you are feeling depressed. IBS may have caused you to avoid doing certain things, like going out or going to work or school. While it may take some time for your efforts to pay off, you may find new freedom by following a plan that includes a healthy diet, learning new ways to deal with your stress and avoiding foods that may make your symptoms worse. Good info can be found at this site: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/digestive/disorders/112.html .

Much more indepth material about IBS can also be found online at these other websites: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/irritablebowelsyndrome.html , http://www.webmd.com/ibs/default.htm , http://www.medicinenet.com/irritable_bowel_syndrome/article.htm , and http://www.aboutibs.org/ .

You can learn to live with IBS, and manage the affects of it with good common sense concerning stress, diet, and your lifestyle. Remember to always consult your family doctor when symptoms come up that make you concerned or appear to be unusual for you. It helps to get information from qualified medical personnel to make sure that your illness is easily treatable and not something worse.

Until next time.

No comments: