IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is becoming an increasingly common problem for millions of people around the world. Despite there being no cure for it, there are several different methods for treating IBS. The typical symptoms of IBS include: painful abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea. Any of these alone can be quite embarrassing and debilitating physically, emotionally, and socially. When they occur together as part of IBS, it can make managing the disorder even more critical to overall health. The options for when it comes to managing IBS varies from person to person, there is literally no single one treatment plan. The following is an overview of the most common methods and medications that patients use to treat and control the symptoms of IBS.
Dietary IBS Treatment Plan
Fortunately for many patients, the simplest treatment option can yield significant results. Dietary control is important regardless of how severe or mild the IBS is. In general, patients suffering from IBS need to avoid certain types of food, which can aggravate the colon and cause flare ups in symptoms. The following are the major dietary changes that most doctors and nutritionist recommend to help manage and reduce symptoms.
• Minimize foods that are prone to cause anyone bowel problems. These include: highly caffeinated beverages, spicy foods, red meat, greasy foods, and dairy products.
• Dietary food additives, such as artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols.
• Add in soluble fiber and helpful bacteria, such as acidophilus.
• Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of full servings.
• Ginger and peppermint tea can be added to help ease intestinal spasms and indigestion.
The overall goal with dietary management is to introduce healthy and well balanced nutrition without overloading the sensitive bowels with hard to digest, and less healthy foods. Some patients that suffer from severe cases require IBS treatment that goes beyond simple dietary changes.
IBS Treatment Using Medication
For patients that do not respond well to dietary changes alone, the addition of over the counter and/or prescription medications may be required. The simplest category, which is available in most places without the assistance of a doctor are anti-diarrhea medicines. Imodium (loperamide) is the most commonly used by those who have diarrhea that is directly related to IBS. In addition to anti-diarrhea medication, some patients opt to take fiber supplements such as Metamucil (psyllium) or Citrucel (methylcellulose). Other over-the-counter medications to help relive IBS related constipation may include products such as milk of magnesia or polyethylene glycol.
Prescription level medications used in the treatment for IBS may be used alone, or in addition to over-the-counter medications. Bile management medications, which can help regulate and relive diarrhea caused by IBS, such as Colestic (colestipol), Welchol (colesevelam), and Prevalite (cholestryamine) can have the unpleasant side effect of causing bloating. Other medications that can be taken to control the gas and intestinal spasms caused by IBS include Bentyl (dicyclomine) and Levsin (hyoscyamine). These medication are used with caution, and generally only sparingly, because they can also lead to more severe issues. At times, patients may find assistance with their IBS treatment plan when they are given antidepressants. One major trigger in IBS is stress and anxiety. Taking an antidepressant can help manage anxiety and lead to relief from some of the more painful symptoms of IBS. At times, antidepressants and stress counseling are given to patients with severe cases of IBS. For more experimental cases, some patients have actually responded well to antibiotic treatments for IBS symptoms, though there is still a lot of testing to be done before anyone can be pinpointed as a potential regular treatment protocol. As for IBS speficic medications, to date, there are two that have been developed and approved specifically for the treatment of IBS; Lotronex (alosetron) and Amitiza (lubiprostone). Both are only approved for use with female patients, and should be taken with caution as they have potential to cause serious side effects.
Understanding More About IBS
Irritable Bowl Syndrome is still a bit of a medical puzzle. Syndrome does not indicate that there is a specific pathogen or genetic anomaly, such as a disease or disorder might indicate. Rather, syndrome implies that there is a group of common symptoms and signs that are present under speculative reasoning. There is no single potential cause for IBS, which means that treating it can be a rather complex process and it focuses on palliative alleviation of conditions such as bowel irregularities and indigestion. What is clearly known about irritable bowel syndrome is that; it affects the large intestine, it does not change the tissues lining the bowels, and it does not increase one’s chances of developing colon cancer. Beyond that, it is also known that despite millions of diagnosed cases, only a small percentage become classifiable as severe.
As many as one in five people will experience IBS symptoms in their lifetime. Most patients that seek medical assistance and are diagnosed, especially those with very mild cases of IBS, can treat and manage their symptoms with minimal alterations to their diet and lifestyle. For those with moderate to severe IBS, the treatments go beyond simple dietary changes and can impact almost every facet of their lives. Patients that have extreme symptoms of IBS that include more serious symptoms, such as rectal bleeding and weight loss, may be suffering from a completely different medical conditions, such as colon cancer.
It is because there are potentially life threateningly serious conditions that have similar symptoms to IBS, that patients should always speak to their doctor about IBS symptoms. The clinical symptoms for IBS list persistent or frequently recurring bouts of: abdominal cramping or pain, feeling bloated or having distention, gas that includes burping and/or flatulence, diarrhea, constipation- at times, alternating between diarrhea and constipation, and mucus in the stool. If these symptoms are present and are accompanied by intense abdominal pain that worsens at night, weight loss, fatigue, and bleeding from the rectum, either during before, or between bowel movements, then immediate medical attention should be sought. It may be difficult for some patients to distinguish between IBS and typical indigestion, which means that the first steps towards understanding the difference is to take notes.
Keeping a food journal that includes what was eaten, as well as any symptoms that occur throughout the day, is the best way to determine if there is a strong potential for IBS, or if it is merely a matter of indigestion that is caused by sensitivity to spicy foods or dairy. The more in depth the journal is kept, the easier it will be for you and/or your doctor to pinpoint the source of your digestive issues. Beyond what was eaten and any symptoms that occur, it is also good to take note of if something was spicy, rich, or dairy-based, as well as taking notes of any medications that are used and how well they worked. Usually a two to four week log is sufficient to pinpoint and diagnose digestive problems. If it becomes necessary to make an appointment with a doctor, it is important to be as honest and forthcoming as possible about your symptoms and concerns. Some patients feel embarrassed to discuss bodily functions, especially those related to digestion. However, it should be kept in mind that doctors are more than willing and eager to help patients get back to optimal health and they are well trained and comfortable discussing any health issue. For those with an aversion to discussing such personal functions, it can be especially helpful to keep a detailed journal to present to the doctor, as writing things down can be less embarrassing than voicing them out.
How To Treat IBS
With the many limitations and potential issues with medications, many patients wonder if it is possible to get IBS relief with homeopathic practices. The answer depends entirely on how severe the IBS is. Most patients follow the mixed practice between natural and lifestyle remedies, as well as minimal medication adherence. Like many chronic conditions, treating IBS requires a comprehensive treatment approach. The two biggest factors revolve around dietary changes and stress management. As mentioned briefly, IBS patients have to learn how to deal with triggers. These are either food or emotional states that can bring about IBS symptoms or worsen current ones. Changing up to a more bowel friendly diet can be further effective when regular exercise and weight management is included as well. Taking antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications can be complimented by counseling in stress management or working through stressful situations. Meditation and aromatherapy are popular alternative practices that IBS sufferers use to help calm their mind and bodies and help ease the intensity of IBS symptoms. Overall, while being diagnosed with IBS can be a dramatic and depressing event, the prognosis for the millions of patients is generally positive. It may take some time to find the treatment plan that works best for the individual, but it is quite possible to live a full and productive life.