Irritable bowel syndrome, also commonly referred to as IBS, is a digestive disorder that affects the colon and causes stomach pain and discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, gassiness, and bloating. While it is typically not a life-threatening condition, IBS causes are currently unclear. However, there are many treatment options to manage IBS symptoms.
Lifestyle modifications are important in treating IBS in addition to medications. Most people with IBS improve their symptoms by cutting out foods that they know trigger flare-ups and severe symptoms, which can be anything from lactose to stress.
The exact cause of IBS is still a mystery, though researchers believe that it is due to a nervous system malfunction that leads to irregular contractions in the large intestine.
What Causes Severe IBS Symptoms and Flare-Ups?
Too Much Stress
Stress does not directly result in IBS but is a common trigger as it worsens cramping and bloating. Stress management is essential to keep IBS symptoms under control.
Meditation, regular physical activity as well as breathing exercises are ideal stress management tools. Biofeedback is also an effective option that teaches you to gain control over your body’s natural responses to stress and consequently lowering its impact on IBS.
Although every person with IBS has different triggers, there are some food triggers that are known to exacerbate IBS in most people with the condition. Some of these are cauliflower, broccoli, beans, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, and dairy products. Gluten intolerance or lactose intolerance can be an underlying reason for severe IBS symptoms as well.
Alcohol and Caffeine
In addition to drinking lots of water to keep your gastrointestinal tract hydrated, you should avoid known GI stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol, which includes energy drinks as well. Beverages with high-sugar content can also cause diarrhea.
Over-the-counter antidiarrheals, bile acid binders, and cholestyramine work to relieve diarrhea in mild cases. Increasing your fiber intake is important if your primary IBS symptom is constipation, which can also be achieved by taking supplements. In more severe cases, antidepressants improve IBS symptoms. There are also newer medications like alosetron and rifaximin for diarrhea, and linaclotide for constipation.
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