Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic functional disorder of the intestines which causes abdominal pain, often accompanied by cramping, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. It is also referred to as spastic colon or mucous colitis. Irritable bowel syndrome is more commonly known by its abbreviated term – IBS.
There are three forms of IBS depending on the symptoms — diarrhea-predominant (IBS-D), constipation-predominant (IBS-C) and IBS with alternating stool pattern (IBS-A). Clinical investigations are going on a new IBS subtype, post-infectious IBS (IBS-PI).
Symptoms of IBS
[box]IBS symptoms include: • Abdominal pain • Discomfort associated with changes in bowel habits • Fewer than three bowel movements a week • More than three bowel movements a day • Hard or lumpy stools • Loose or watery stools • Straining during a bowel movement • Urgency (having to rush to have a bowel movement) • Feeling of incomplete bowel movement • Passing mucus (white material) during a bowel movement • Abdominal fullness, bloating, or swelling • Chronic pelvic pain • Mental stress • Fibromyalgia and various mental disorders • Researchers believe that there are neurological and psychological disorders associated with IBS.[/box]
Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The exact causes of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown, but there are factors that may aggravate the trouble. Dietary factors and stress don’t exactly cause IBS, but they can aggravate it. Various studies and researches have noted an IBS connection to diet. Physicians feel that the correct diet can provide IBS relief.
Common IBS diet advice includes:
• Eat soluble fiber foods and supplements.
• Substitute dairy products for soy or rice products.
• Be careful with fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in insoluble fiber.
• Eat small amounts in regular intervals to lessen the symptoms of IBS.
• Avoid eating red meat, oily or fatty (and fried) products.
• Avoid taking dairy products (especially when lactose intolerance is suspected).
• Avoid solid chocolate, coffee (regular and decaffeinated), alcohol, carbonated beverages and artificial sweeteners.
IBS treatment includes dietary advice and medication. Developing good dietary habits may be the best treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.
Medications can provide instant IBS relief. These may include stool softeners and laxatives in constipation-predominant, and antidiarrheal (loperamide) in diarrhea-predominant IBS. The low dosage of tricyclic and SSRI antidepressants has shown to be the most widely prescribed medications for helping to relieve symptoms of visceral sensitivity (pain) and diarrhea or constipation respectively. Other medications include:
• Alosetron: Alosetron is a selective 5-HT3 antagonist for IBS-D. It is only available for women in the United States under a restricted access program, due to severe risks of side effects if taken mistakenly by IBS-A or IBS-C sufferers.
• Cilansetron: Cilansetron is also a selective 5-HT3 antagonist that is undergoing further clinical studies in Europe for IBS-D sufferers.
• Tegaserod: Tegaserod is a selective 5-HT4 antagonist for IBS-C. It has shown to have an excellent safety profile for relieving IBS constipation and chronic idiopathic constipation.