What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a functional disorder, which means the bowel or large intestine doesn’t function or perform correctly. It is not a disease of the bowels, nor can it lead to any more serious bowel disease such as inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer.
It is called a syndrome, as it is a collection of different symptoms. There is no known cause of the syndrome, but it is related to abnormal spasm or contraction of the muscles in the large intestine, where stool is produced. For this reason it used to be known as Spastic Colon.
Although no cause is known certain factors do make it worse, for example stress seems to exacerbate symptoms, as does smoking and certain foods like caffeine, citrus, dairy and certain medications. Because it is a functional disease there is no specific diagnostic test.
There is however standard called the Rome III Criteria which differentiates IBS from any other disorder.
• Can only be diagnosed if present for at least 6 months
• Recurrent abdominal pain related to change in frequency of bowel movement.
• Pain is relieved by a bowel movement
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS):
• Alternating constipation and diarrhoea
• Abdominal pain and cramps
• Bloating especially after meals.
• Possible mucous in the stool
• A feeling of an incomplete bowel evacuation
• Abdominal pain relieved by a bowel movement
Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndome (IBS):
There is no known cure of IBS. There is only the symptomatic treatment and prevention of the illness. Medications like antispasmodics relieve cramps and pain. Trying to relieve stress can help the emotional aspect.
The biggest effect on IBS is diet. Cutting out some of the triggers such as
• Dairy products
Including more fibre in diet also seems to help.
What about gluten? Cutting out any gluten containing products (wheat, rye, oats and barley) also helps with IBS symptoms. This is where there is often an interesting overlap to Celiac Disease. In patients diagnosed with IBS who were tested for Celiac they had up to four times higher incidence of having Celiac Disease.
I was told as a child I had Spastic Colon, then was later diagnosed with IBS and only when I was an adult was I diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I no longer have any of the symptoms associated with IBS. It’s vital that this missing link is not overlooked in diagnosing your disorder.
What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
• Abdominal bloating and pain.
• Chronic diarrhoea.
• Vomiting and nausea.
• Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
• Acid Reflux/Indigestion and in addition
• Bone or joint pain
• Depression or anxiety
• Tingling numbness in the hands and feet ( known as neuropathy)
• Missed menstrual periods
• Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
• Dermatitis herpetiformis ( occurs in about 20% of Celiac patients)
The treatment for Celiac Disease is to follow a completely gluten free diet for life and this completely heals the gut and gets rid of the disorder.
Do you see the similarities? There are differences, such as the anemia and arthritis, but the disease is well progressed in those stages and most patients present with the only gastro-intestinal symptoms. Also Celiac Disease occurs in the small bowel not the large bowel, but the symptoms completely overlap.
It should be standard medical practice for doctors to test for Celiac in patients presenting with IBS! Have you been tested?