What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS can interfere with everyday life. But what is it and how can it be treated? Find out from House Call Doctor.

Sanaz Majd, MD,
January 23, 2013
Episode #111

Page 2 of 2

What Causes IBS?

People with a family history of IBS have a higher chance of developing it – so you can thank your parents for that disastrous evening with the guy you’ve been lusting after for the last 6 months.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

Additionally, people who experience stress, anxiety, or depression tend to suffer from IBS more frequently. In fact, studies show that a prior history of physical or sexual abuse is a risk factor in developing more severe IBS symptoms.

Diagnosis of IBS

Diagnosis of IBS is often made through a history and exam by your doctor. However, you may be advised to complete a blood test and a possible stool test (depending on your symptoms).   If you have a family history of colon cancer, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis), or Celiac Disease, make sure to mention that to your doctor. 

Treatment of IBS

Before your hunky date deems you the rudest person on the planet, you can reassure him or her that there are some treatment options available for those with IBS:

  1. Exercise and diet: Doctors often recommend starting a food diary to find if there’s a relationship between certain foods and a patient’s IBS symptoms. Also, studies show that those who get regular exercise have fewer IBS symptoms. 

  2. Anti-diarrheal medications: Over-the-counter medications can help with the diarrhea, but may not improve the abdominal discomfort as much.

  3. Probiotics: Some studies show that taking probiotics can relieve symptoms.

  4. Anti-spasmodics: Medications that reduce the stomach spasms, like dicyclomine or hyoscyamine, can also help IBS symptoms.

See also: Everyday Einstein’s “What Is Gut Microbiota?”

Other treatments, like fiber supplementation, laxatives, and antibiotics have not been shown to improve IBS symptoms. 

Could it Be Something More Serious?

If you experience any of the following symptoms, make sure you see your doctor right away:

  • Unintended weight loss

  • Progressively worsening abdominal pain

  • Malnutrition

  • Bloody stools

  • Black stools

Any of these symptoms could be a sign that something other than IBS is going on and should be communicated to your doctor immediately.

Do you have an embarrassing IBS story? Share it with us and over 1000 fans on the House Call Doctor’s Facebook and Twitter pages! (Ok, or maybe just your tips on dealing with it). If yo have any questions or suggestions for a future topic, send them to housecalldoctor@quickanddirtytips.com. Hope you have a bowel-healthy week!

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

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