Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders. It affects as many as one in five adults today in the United States. Women are far more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome than men are. Around half of the people who develop irritable bowel syndrome will contract this disorder around the age of 35.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include abdominal pain and cramping, bloating and constipation or diarrhea. The symptoms of this disorder can range from mild to severe. Irritable bowel syndrome can last for years and can be debilitating to some people. People with this disorder may have to miss work due to their symptoms. They also may not be able to attend other events such as social functions due to the symptoms. However even though debilitating and disabling at times, it does not cause any type of permanent damage to the intestines or the abdomen.
The most common symptoms that people complain about with irritable bowel syndrome are abdominal pain and discomfort and bloating. Many people with this disorder have problems with constipation as well. Constipation means that people have infrequent or hard to pass stools. They may have to strain really hard to have a bowel movement. They may also have very hard stool that only passes in small amounts. Others with irritable bowel syndrome have problems with diarrhea. People with diarrhea have frequent stools that can sometimes be watery and loose. At times people with diarrhea have no control over their stools. Some people with irritable bowel syndrome will have both constipation and diarrhea at different times. These symptoms can last for weeks even months at a time. They can disappear only to reappear in the future.
There is no exact cause for irritable bowel syndrome. Researchers feel that this disorder may be due to several factors. A lot of medical professionals feel that many that suffer from this disorder may have an abnormally large colon which is extremely sensitive to certain foods and drink. Others feel that problems with the immune system play a part in this disorder.
If a person’s stomach or gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to certain foods this can lead to the stomach and intestines going into spasms when they are exposed to those foods. These spasms are present during attacks of irritable bowel syndrome. This can also affect motility of the colon. When the mobility and motility is increased the amount of fluid that should be absorbed by the intestines is lost in the stools due to the frequency and increased number of stools that are passed. In others, the colon is slowed down too much which allows too much fluid to be absorbed by the body and this causes stool to be hard and constipation ensues.
Research has shown that serotonin levels may well play a part in irritable bowel syndrome. The largest portion of serotonin that is in the body is located in the gastrointestinal tract. The remainder is found in the brain. Normally people have cells that transport serotonin out of the gastrointestinal tract to other parts of the body. People who have irritable bowel syndrome have a decreased amount of the transport cells. This causes abnormally high levels of serotonin to be found in the gastrointestinal tract and the intestines in particular. This can affect the ability of the intestines to move nutrients and waste along the intestinal tract.
Other research has shown us that certain bacterial infections can lead to irritable bowel syndrome after the infectious process has run its course. People who have celiac disease are also more prone to developing irritable bowel syndrome as well. Those who have this disease cannot digest gluten and this causes damage to the intestinal tract by the immune system who attacks it due to this disease.
Irritable bowel syndrome needs to be evaluated and diagnosed by a medical professional. Things that can make it worse include increased stress levels, anxiety, coffee or caffeinated drinks, alcohol, wheat, rye, chocolate and dairy products, and certain medications. Researchers have found that women who have this disorder tend to have more episodes around the time of their menstrual cycle. They feel that fluctuating hormone levels may play a part in causing attacks. They have also found that people who are depressed or have emotional issues are more likely to develop this disorder.
Things that people can do to treat or lessen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include medication for the abdominal cramping and the bloating as well as increase the fiber in their diet. They can add natural laxatives to their dietary regimen as well. People with this disease should work with their physician to find the right regimen of medication and diet that helps them to alleviate the symptoms of this disorder.
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