Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a frustrating and extremely common disorder that affects the large intestine or colon. Fortunately, not like more-serious intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, this syndrome does not cause changes in bowel tissue or inflammation or increase the chance of colorectal cancer.


The main symptoms of this syndrome are abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, mucus in the stool, and an alteration in bowel habits. There may be a constant urgency for bowel movements and, tenesmus, which is the feeling of incomplete defecation. Constipation may predominate, or there can be alternating episodes of both diarrhea and constipation. Most people who have irritable bowel syndrome also have gastroesophageal reflux, fibromyalgia and migraine headaches. Some studies indicate that up to 60% of people with irritable bowel syndrome also have a psychological disorder, typically depression or another mild mental disorder. Many people experience only mild signs and symptoms. Nevertheless, sometimes these conditions can be hard to overcome. In a more severe case, you may have serious signs and symptoms that do not respond remarkably well to medical treatment. For many people with irritable bowel syndrome, it is a chronic condition, although there will likely be times when the symptoms are terrible and times when they improve drastically or even disappear complete. Because the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome also occur with other more dangerous diseases, it is best to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms.

The cause of this syndrome is not known, but there are several theories.  The walls of the intestinal tract are lined with layers of muscle that go through the process of peristalsis, which is the contraction and relaxation of the muscles in the intestinal walls in a coordinated rhythm. This process moves the food you eat from the stomach through the intestinal tract to the rectum. If you have this syndrome, the contractions of your intestines may be stronger and last quite a bit longer than usually. Food is pushed through your intestines much more quickly, causing bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Sometimes, the opposite occurs. Food is forced out more slowly, and stools become dry and hard.

Abnormalities in your colon or nervous system may play a role, causing you to experience greater discomfort when your intestinal wall stretches from gas or stool. There are also a number of other conditions that may play a role. For example, sufferers may have irregular serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical messenger that is normally related to brain function, but it also plays a key role in regular digestive system function. Another theory is that people with irritable bowel syndrome do not have the proper balance of helpful bacteria in the intestine.

Managing the Symptoms

No one knows what really causes this syndrome so treatment is mainly focused on relieving the symptoms. Here are a few tips to relieve irritable bowel syndrome.

  • You can regulate irritable bowel syndrome by alternating your lifestyle, managing your diet, and reducing stress.
  • The symptoms may relieved by more frequent bowel movements.
  • Taking fiber supplements, such as psyllium or methylcellulose, with plenty of fluids may help relieve constipation.
  • Over-the-counter medications anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide, can help control diarrhea.
  • If you have troublesome bloating or are passing large amounts of gas, you may want to consider avoiding items such as carbonated beverages, raw fruits, salads, and vegetables — especially cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
  • Some people may need medications that control certain activities of the autonomic nervous system to relieve painful bowel spasms. This may be useful for people who have episodes of diarrhea, but can worsen constipation.
  • If your symptoms include depression or pain, your doctor may suggest antidepressant medications. These medications help relieve depression as well as hinder the activity of neurons that control the intestines. If you have abdominal pain and diarrhea without depression, they may suggest a lower dose of antidepressants. However, please keep in mind that these medications can worsen diarrhea in some patients.
  • Antibiotics may be helpful in treating those sufferers whose symptoms are mostly due to an overgrowth of bacteria in their intestines.
  • If you have depression and anxiety as symptoms and antidepressant medications do not work for you, your doctor may suggest that you would have better results from counseling. This is especially true if stress tends to bring on or worsen your symptoms.

Symptoms from irritable bowel syndrome can limit sufferer’s/ sufferers’ mobility and may cause other complications. If you or an elderly loved one suffering from this syndrome, you should consider our home care services.