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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  • What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder that affects the colon (large intestine). It affects the normal functioning of the colon, and causes lots of discomfort and pain, changes in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea), gassiness and bloating. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not life-threatening as it does not lead to permanent damage to the colon, intestinal bleeding, or serious complications such as cancer.

  • There is no exact cause for Irritable Bowel Syndrome but people suffering from the disease tend to report one of the following conditions:

    • Food passing through the bowel quickly and forcefully, leading to diarrhoea.
    • Food passing very slowly through the bowel, leading to constipation.
    • Sensitive muscles and nerves in the bowel. Excessive contraction of these muscles when you eat can lead to cramps in the abdomen (belly).

    There are other risk factors that increase the chance of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and these include:

    • Being young
    • Having a family history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Leading a stressful life
    • Suffering from infection or inflammation of the gut
  • The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome can vary greatly between affected individuals. Your symptoms can range from mild to disabling, and these include:

    • Changes to the motion of stools (small hard pellets or loose stools)
    • Changes to your bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation)
    • Feeling that you urgently need to open your bowels
    • Feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
    • Finding mucus in the stools
    • Having a lot of wind
    • Having abdominal bloating
    • Having pain or cramps in the abdomen (belly)
    • You need to be aware, though, that these symptoms are similar to those of Colon Cancer, and therefore you need to get your condition evaluated by your doctor.

    There are also less common symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome such as general tiredness, backache, headache, sweating, nausea, vomiting and having pain when going to the toilet.

  • There is no cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The treatment options consist of treating your symptoms and avoiding the risk factors that trigger the onset of your Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Your doctor will suggest a treatment plan that works best for you, and it includes a combination of the following:

    • Activities and medication to keep your stress in check
    • Dietary changes that include:
      1. avoiding alcohol, fatty foods, chocolate and caffeinated drinks
      2. eating a lot of fruits and vegetables to increase your fibre intake
      3. eating small meals
    • Medication to help alleviate your constipation, diarrhoea, or abdominal pain and cramps
    • Avoidance of social engagements
    • Depression
    • Malnutrition
    • Worsening of Piles
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