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Ailments & Remedies

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder characterized most commonly by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer. Most people can control their symptoms with diet, stress management, and prescribed medications. For some people, however, IBS can be disabling. They may be unable to work, attend social events, or even travel short distances.

As many as 20 percent of the adult population, or one in five Americans, have symptoms of IBS, making it one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. It occurs more often in women than in men, and it begins before the age of 35 in about 50 percent of people.

Causes

Researchers have yet to discover any specific cause for IBS. One theory is that people who suffer from IBS have a colon that is particularly sensitive and reactive to certain foods and stress. The immune system, which fights infection, may also be involved.

  • Normal motility, or movement, may not be present in the colon of a person who has IBS. It can be spasmodic or can even stop working temporarily. Spasms are sudden strong muscle contractions that come and go.

  • The lining of the colon called the epithelium, which is affected by the immune and nervous systems, regulates the flow of fluids in and out of the colon. In IBS, the epithelium appears to work properly. However, when the contents inside the colon move too quickly, the colon loses its ability to absorb fluids. The result is too much fluid in the stool. In other people, the movement inside the colon is too slow, which causes extra fluid to be absorbed. As a result, a person develops constipation.

  • A person’s colon may respond strongly to stimuli such as certain foods or stress that would not bother most people.

  • Recent research has reported that serotonin is linked with normal gastrointestinal (GI) functioning. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical, that delivers messages from one part of the body to another. Ninety-five percent of the serotonin in the body is located in the GI tract, and the other 5 percent is found in the brain. Cells that line the inside of the bowel work as transporters and carry the serotonin out of the GI tract. People with IBS, however, have diminished receptor activity, causing abnormal levels of serotonin to exist in the GI tract. As a result, they experience problems with bowel movement, motility, and sensation—having more sensitive pain receptors in their GI tract.

  • Researchers have reported that IBS may be caused by a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies show that people who have had gastroenteritis sometimes develop IBS, otherwise called post–infectious IBS.

 

Symptoms

Abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort are the main symptoms of IBS. However, symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people have constipation, which means hard, difficult-to-pass, or infrequent bowel movements. Often these people report straining and cramping when trying to have a bowel movement but cannot eliminate any stool, or they are able to eliminate only a small amount. If they are able to have a bowel movement, it may have mucus in it, which is a fluid that moistens and protect passages in the digestive system. Some people with IBS experience diarrhea, which is frequent, loose, watery, stools. People with diarrhea frequently feel an urgent and uncontrollable need to have a bowel movement. Other people with IBS alternate between constipation and diarrhea. Sometimes people find that their symptoms subside for a few months and then return, while others report a constant worsening of symptoms over time

Points to Remember

  • IBS is a disorder that interferes with the normal functions of the colon. The symptoms are crampy abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

  • IBS is a common disorder found more often in women than men.

  • People with IBS have colons that are more sensitive and reactive to things that might not bother other people, such as stress, large meals, gas, medicines, certain foods, caffeine, or alcohol.

  • IBS is diagnosed by its signs and symptoms and by the absence of other diseases.

  • Most people can control their symptoms by taking medicines such as laxatives, antidiarrhea medicines, antispasmodics, or antidepressants; reducing stress; and changing their diet.

  • IBS does not harm the intestines and does not lead to cancer. It is not related to Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

 

Healing Options

Herbs

  • Amla

  • Ginger

  • Bael Fruit

  • Cuminseed

Ayurvedic Supplements

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Diet

The most common dietary treatment for IBS has been, and still is, a high fibre diet. While this is still a positive recommendation for many patients, especially those who suffer from constipation, some patients will not benefit from an increase in dietary fibre, and in some the symptoms may even worsen. As with any change in diet the increase in fibre should be gradual, involve a variety of fibres and an adequate fluid intake of at least 1.5 litres per day. The major sources of fluid should be water, but dilute tea or juices may be suitable in some patients. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, and carbonated soft drinks can aggravate symptoms and should be limited, especially in the initial stages of dietary modification.

IBS symptoms tend to be increased following large meals, particularly if the meal is high in fat, and if the meal is eaten quickly. It can be helpful to spread the food over 3 meals and 3 snacks per day. Avoid 
eating quickly and try to relax after a meal. Regular light exercise can also help reduce symptoms

 

Yoga

 

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