Few Tips To Overcome Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Few Tips To Overcome Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterised by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, and constipation

Dr Gaurav Kumar PatilUpdated: Saturday, May 11, 2024, 11:00 PM IST
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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterised by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, and constipation. While the exact cause of IBS is not fully understood, it is believed to involve a combination of factors, including abnormal muscle contractions in the intestines, heightened sensitivity to digestive stimuli, changes in gut bacteria, and abnormalities in the nervous system that controls the digestive tract.

IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders worldwide, affecting approximately 10-15% of the global population. It is more common in women than in men, with a female-to-male ratio of about 2:1. IBS can develop at any age, but it often begins in early adulthood. However, it can also occur in children and older adults.  IBS imposes a significant economic burden due to healthcare costs, reduced work productivity, and impaired quality of life. Direct medical costs associated with IBS, including healthcare visits, medications, and diagnostic tests, contribute to substantial healthcare expenditures.

Causes

One of the primary causes of IBS is believed to be abnormalities in the gut-brain axis, which is the communication network between the brain and the digestive system. Stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors can trigger symptoms of IBS, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. Young people are particularly susceptible to stress due to various life transitions, academic pressures, and social challenges, making them more vulnerable to developing IBS.

Additionally, diet plays a significant role in the development and management of IBS. Certain foods and beverages, such as spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and high-fat meals, can exacerbate symptoms of IBS. Young people often have irregular eating habits and may consume more processed foods, which can worsen gastrointestinal symptoms.

Furthermore, disruptions in the gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms that reside in the digestive tract, have been implicated in the development of IBS. Factors such as antibiotic use, infections, and dietary changes can alter the balance of gut bacteria, leading to gastrointestinal dysfunction.

To manage IBS, follow these steps:

Balanced diet: Emphasise whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid trigger foods that worsen symptoms, and consider keeping a food diary to identify individual triggers.

Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration and promote healthy digestion.

Manage stress: Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to help alleviate symptoms of IBS.

Regular exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to promote overall health and improve gastrointestinal function.

Adequate sleep: Prioritise quality sleep to support immune function, regulate hormones, and reduce stress levels.

Limit alcohol and caffeine: Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine intake, as these substances can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and exacerbate symptoms of IBS.

Seek professional help: Consult a healthcare provider if you experience persistent or severe gastrointestinal symptoms. They can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatments, such as dietary changes, medications, or therapy.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis of IBS is typically based on the presence of characteristic symptoms and the absence of any other underlying medical conditions. There is no specific test for IBS, but healthcare providers may perform certain tests to rule out other gastrointestinal disorders.

Treatment for IBS focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life. This may include dietary changes, such as avoiding trigger foods, increasing fibre intake, and reducing stress through relaxation techniques or counselling. Medications such as antispasmodics, laxatives, or antidepressants may also be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms.

Conclusion

While the causes of IBS remain complex and multifaceted, young people can take proactive measures to reduce their risk and manage symptoms effectively. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, stress management techniques, and regular exercise, individuals can improve their overall well-being and minimise the impact of IBS on their daily lives.

(Dr Gaurav Kumar Patil is Consultant Gastroenterology at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital)

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