Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a little understood disorder because doctors are not quite sure about its cause. Consequently, treatment and testing is highly individualized. Testing is done based on a physicians judgment after examining many factors, such as family history, symptoms, stress factors, etc.
Because IBS treatment and testing are so individualized, they should always be performed under the advice or prescription of a colorectal specialist. If you or someone you know is suffering from IBS, here are some of our recommendations.
See a Specialist
The first step to treating IBS is to visit a physician who specializes in gastrointestinal medicine. You should be honest with them about all of your symptoms. Your specialist may perform a physical exam or diagnostic testing to find out what the issue is. The primary symptom of IBS is abdominal pain, especially abdominal pain associated with a change in bowel habits. This change can be characterized by frequency or consistency of stool.
There are certain symptoms of IBS that are also red flags for other more serious disorders that must be addressed before a physician can diagnose you with IBS. These red flag symptoms include anemia or abnormal blood tests, new symptoms appearing past the age of 50, fever, blood in the stool, unintentional weight loss, or a family history of GI diseases.
Change Your Diet
Incorporating a healthier diet is always a good step for treating IBS. Because IBS can affect everyone differently it may be beneficial to keep a journal of all the foods you eat and how they affect you. That way you can work with your doctor to find out which foods are okay and which ones you should stay away from.
Most people with IBS benefit from avoiding fried foods, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and fructose. These foods and beverages often make symptoms worse. It can also be beneficial to only consume soluble fiber. While fiber is helpful for many things in the body, people with IBS benefit more from soluble fiber as it takes longer to leave the digestive system. Soluble fiber can be found in oat bran, barley, and navy, pinto, and lima beans.
All medication used in treating IBS should be discussed with your physician. They may suggest over the counter medications to help alleviate your IBS symptoms, or they may prescribe you something.
Some common over the counter medications for IBS include:
Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate)
Simethacone (Gas-X, Mylicon)
Oftentimes a physician will prescribe antidepressants for a patient who is dealing with IBS. Some of these medications have been shown to help with stomach pain. A doctor may also prescribe drugs that relax your stomach muscles, called antispasmodics. Muscle spasms in your digestive tract can cause belly pain, and these medications can calm these spasms and ease the pain.
Stress can make the symptoms of IBS worse, so finding ways to cope with stress can improve your condition. There are many types of therapy designed to help people deal with stress, including meditation, yoga, and exercise. One of the simplest and most relaxing things to do is to just set aside some time to do something you enjoy, whether that is going for a walk, playing sports, reading, listening to music, or taking a nice hot bath. Reducing stress is a great way to lessen the symptoms of IBS.
Treating IBS is difficult, but it is possible! Don’t let your symptoms take control of your life, reclaim it instead. All you’ve got to do is come see us. Our colorectal specialists are always there for you and they are experts at treating IBS. Contact us or book an appointment today.