Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a very common disorder. The bowel consists of the esophagus, stomach, small intestines (small bowel) and large intestines (large bowel or colon). Normally these hollow muscular tubes contract in a smooth steady fashion. If the contractions are sporadic or spasmodic, then various symptoms may arise. For example, if the stomach and small intestines contract irregularly, one may experience burning and pain located just above the belly button along with nausea, burping and belching. However, if the contractions are mainly in the large bowel, then one may experience lower abdominal crampy pain or pain under the rib cage, with bloating, gas and either diarrhea, constipation, or alternating diarrhea and constipation.


What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

It is believed that I.B.S. results from the lack of "fiber" or "roughage" in the diet. In addition, some people notice that when they are under stress or if they feel depressed, their symptoms are much worse. This is because the bowel reacts very quickly to stress or strain by contracting in an irregular fashion.


What is "Fiber or Roughage"?

In western society our diet has changed over the years. We now eat very few unrefined foods, that's the part of the fruit, vegetable or grain that is not broken down by digestive juices in the intestines. This part retains water in the intestines adding bulk to the stool. This in turn helps to regulate the intestinal contractions. In countries where people eat a high fiber diet, there is very little I.B.S.


How do I know that I do not have anything more serious- like cancer?

The tests that we carry our are designed to rule out, as far as possible, any serious diseases that can sometime give rise to similar symptoms. Very often we order blood tests. In addition, we may do a fiberoptic endoscopy either of the stomach or part of the colon. An upper endoscopy consists of passing a thin flexible tube through the mouth and into the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). A lower endoscopy consists of passing a thin flexible tube by way of the rectum into the colon. Both test check for any inflammation or ulceration. If you fail to respond to treatment, further investigation may be required; but this is unusual.


What is the treatment for I.B.S.?

The first step is to being a high fiber diet. This means increasing the amount of roughage that you are eating now. We recommend that you have a bowl of Fiber One™ or Bran Buds™ cereal every morning. Your diet should include lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads.


Do I need to take anything else?

Occasionally, we prescribe anti-spasm pills such as Bentyl or tranquilizers for a brief period. If your symptoms are related to depression, it is important to recognize this. Many different medications are now available to treat depression.


How long will it take for me to get better?

You may not notice any improvement during the first week or so on the high fiber diet. In fact, you may feel worse. This is because your body is not yet used to the new foods you are eating. After the initial adjustment period, however, you should begin to feel much better. By the end of the first or second month your symptoms will probably be much less severe.


What shoud I do if I develop other symptoms?

If your symptoms change, or if you develop new complaints (such as blood in your stool), or anything which worries you, then you should see your doctor. It is always possible to develop another disease or condition, just like anyone else.