Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic health condition that affects the large intestine or colon and can cause a variety of uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms and is a common gastrointestinal disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. The exact cause of IBS is still unknown but there are several factors that are believed to contribute to its development.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Vishakha Kalikar, GI surgeon and laparoscopic surgeon at Jain Multispeciality Hospital, Chembur, highlighted the reasons-
1. Abnormal gastrointestinal motility: In people with IBS, the muscles in the intestinal walls may contract abnormally, causing the bowels to move either too quickly (resulting in diarrhea) or too slowly (resulting in constipation).
2. Visceral Hypersensitivity: People with IBS may have a heightened sensitivity to abdominal pain and discomfort, leading to exaggerated sensations in response to normal bowel movements or gas.
3. Changes in Gut Microbiota: The gut is home to trillions of bacteria that play an important role in digestion and overall gut health. Changes in the composition of the gut microbiota may contribute to IBS symptoms.
4. Psychological factors: Stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors are known to affect gut function and can trigger or exacerbate IBS symptoms in susceptible individuals.
According to him, the symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person and can include-
1. Abdominal pain or discomfort: This is the most common symptom of IBS and is often described as cramping or pain in the lower abdomen. Pain after bowel movement may decrease.
2. Changes in bowel movements: IBS can cause changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both. Stool consistency can also vary, with some people experiencing loose or watery stools, while others may have hard or thick stools.
3. Bloating and Gas: Many people with IBS report feeling bloated and passing excessive gas, which can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.
4. Other symptoms: Some people with IBS may also experience other symptoms such as mucus in the stool, a feeling of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement, and an urgency to have a bowel movement.
While there is no cure for IBS, there are several management strategies that can help people cope with the condition and reduce their symptoms. According to Dr Visakha Kalikar these include-
1. Lifestyle changes: Making a few changes to diet and lifestyle can have a significant impact on managing IBS symptoms. Identifying and avoiding trigger foods such as fatty or spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol can help reduce symptoms. Eating small, frequent meals and staying hydrated can also be beneficial. Regular exercise, stress management techniques, and adequate sleep can also help manage symptoms.
2. Medicines: Over-the-counter medications, such as antidiarrheals or laxatives, can be used to relieve the typical symptoms of IBS. Prescription medications, such as antispasmodics or low-dose antidepressants, may also be prescribed by a healthcare provider to help manage symptoms.
3. Stomach directed treatment: Certain treatments, such as probiotics or peppermint oil capsules, can help improve gut health and reduce IBS symptoms in some people.
4. Psychological support: Because stress and other psychological factors can influence IBS symptoms, it may be beneficial to seek help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor.
5. Patient education: Educating yourself about IBS, understanding triggers, and learning effective coping strategies can empower people to better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.