Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive system disorder in which a person experiences multiple symptoms that impacts his/her daily life. Irritable bowel syndrome affects 10-15% of the population around the world, but the exact cause of IBS is unknown. The occurrence of IBS is higher in women than in men. People with a prior digestive tract infection, stressful lifestyle, and family history of IBS are more likely to develop the disorder [NIH]. Irritable bowel syndrome is of three types – irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D), irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) and irritable bowel syndrome with alternating constipation and diarrhea (IBS-A).
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is presented with some common symptoms of:
- Swollen belly
- Excessive gas
- Stomach pain
- Changes in faeces
- Mucus in faeces
- A feeling of incomplete evacuation
Also, constipation and diarrhea may occur depending on the type of IBS. Anxiety and depression are also seen in some patients [ADAA].
Diagnosis and Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There is no particular test for the diagnosis of IBS, and the diagnosis is made based on the symptoms of the patient. Several tests may be performed to rule out other digestive tract disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, etc. After ruling out other conditions, one of the three diagnosis methods is used:
Manning criteria: There is a list of questions and the physician asks the patient. The questions include relief in pain after passing the stool, diarrhea containing mucus, and change in the consistency of stool, etc.
Rome criteria: It is based on recurrent pain in abdomen for at least one day in a week in last previous three months related with at least two of these: defecation, change in the frequency and appearance of stool.
Type of irritable bowel syndrome: Irritable bowel syndrome on categorized into one of the above mentioned three types on the basis of symptoms,
As there is no cure for IBS, symptoms are managed by:
- Eating slowly and preventing delays in food intake
- Reducing stress
- Getting regular exercise
- Getting proper sleep
- Eating smaller meals more often
- Consuming probiotic foods and drinks
- Providing psychological therapies to reduce symptoms
- Making dietary and lifestyle changes
Also, doctors may prescribe laxatives for constipation, antidiarrheal drugs for diarrhea, antispasmodics for pain and antidepressants for depression.
Dietary and lifestyle changes to manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Gluten-free and fiber-rich diet
Certain dietary and lifestyle changes are important for people suffering from IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome’s symptoms can be managed to some extent by decreasing gluten extent and increasing fiber extent in the diet. Fiber helps in cases of constipation by making faeces easier to pass. Examples of foods rich in fiber include – fruits (bananas, oranges, strawberries, muskmelons, etc.), vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, squash, carrots, etc.), oats, wheat bran, etc. But, the fiber must be limited in case of excessive gas and diarrhea as it may worsen these problems. Cutting off or reducing gluten intake in the diet may also help. Gluten is a protein found in whole grain products (bread, pasta, etc.) which may also worsen the symptoms of IBS. Some persons may have problems in digesting this protein.
Low FODMAP diet for irritable bowel syndrome
The low fermentable, oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyol diet (FODMAP) diet is a specialized diet that may help to manage IBS. To follow this diet, persons are required to:
- Avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol, dairy products, fatty and spicy foods, fruits high in fructose such as apples and pears, processed foods, dried fruits, and nuts, artificial sweeteners
- Utilize olive oil more often than vegetable oils
- Consume lesser amounts of tea and coffee
- Avoid certain vegetables such as cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc), leeks, Brussel sprouts and shallots
- Avoid indigestible saccharides found in baked beans and soybeans
Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorders disorder that has a significant impact on the quality of life. Although there is no cure, ongoing research has identified potential therapies such as Tenapanor which may be beneficial to IBS patients [NIHR].