What is IBS?

(Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

IBS is a syndrome that goes by many names: spastic colon, irritable colon, mucosal colitis, spastic colitis. It is a separate condition from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and is not related to other bowel conditions. IBS is a group of bowel symptoms that usually occur together. The intensity of the symptoms can vary, but they usually occur three days per month and persist for at least three months. In some cases, IBS can even lead to intestinal damage. Fortunately, that happens very rarely. Although IBS does not increase the risk of gastrointestinal cancer, it can still have a significant disruptive effect on your daily routine.

You usually recognize IBS by:
• convulsions
• abdominal pain
• bloating
• constipation and/or diarrhea

It is not uncommon for people with IBS to experience both constipation and diarrhea, while bloating and flatulence usually go away after a bowel movement. Symptoms of IBS are not always permanent. They may become manageable or disappear, only to return in the future. For some people, however, IBS means having to live with uncomfortable symptoms all the time.

For women, IBS usually becomes more prominent at the beginning of a menstrual cycle. Women going through menopause usually experience fewer symptoms than those who are still menstruating. Some women have also reported that certain IBS symptoms intensify during pregnancy.

Symptoms of IBS in men are no different than in women - yet far fewer male patients report them and seek treatment.

Pain caused by IBS often comes in the form of stomach cramps. If you suffer from IBS, you will probably have at least two of the following symptoms as well:

• relief after stool
• changes in the frequency of toilet visits
• changes in the appearance of your stools

Your doctor will likely be able to diagnose IBS based on your symptoms. To rule out other possible causes, they may also take some of the following steps:

• To eliminate the risk of food allergies, they will check if you have adopted a new diet or if you have started avoiding a specific food group.
• To rule out infection, they will do a stool sample. To be sure that you are not gluten intolerant (Celiac) or have a lack of red blood cells (Anemia), they will take specific blood samples.
• If your doctor suspects that your symptoms may be caused by colitis, IBD (Crohn's disease) or cancer, they may perform a colonoscopy.

Changing your eating habits can ease IBS symptoms. These
however, changes must be gradual and monitored, as symptom changes can
vary considerably from person to person.

Although there is no cure for IBS, available treatments can do much to relieve your symptoms. Initially, your doctor may instruct you to adopt certain lifestyle changes and suggest so-called home remedies before being prescribed medication.
You may need to make some lifestyle adjustments to relieve IBS.
Changes such as:

• maintain regular physical exercise
• cut down on caffeinated drinks
• avoid fried and spicy food
• eat smaller meals
• minimize stress

Certain herbs can help with a range of IBS symptoms (bloated stomach, acid reflux, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation).
Herbs that are classified as "Traditional plant-based medicines" (TVBL) have been judged by the Swedish Medicines Agency to be of good pharmaceutical quality and harmless in normal use. Legitimate healthcare personnel can, within the scope of their professional activities, inform about traditional plant-based medicines as a self-care option.

Good properties of herbs to relieve IBS:

Anti-inflammatory effect
Inflammation is at the heart of IBS. Therefore, herbs that help fight inflammation are a very important component. Examples of anti-inflammatory herbs are; Ginger, Kalmus root and Turmeric

Carminative effect
With carminatives effect means herbs that help the body break down and get rid of gases.

In addition to reducing gas, these herbs help with bloating and pain. Examples of carminative herbs are; Chamomile, Peppermint and Fennel.

Calming effect
Stress often plays a large role in IBS, both as a cause and as a trigger. Herbs with a calming effect can therefore be helpful. Examples of herbs with a calming effect are; Lemon balm, Valerina and Rose root

Coordinating your diet with IBS can take some time and effort, but it's often worth it.
A good measure is to reduce the consumption of dairy products, fatty foods, sugar and gas-forming foods such as onions, beans and cabbage. It can help relieve various IBS symptoms.
The so-called FODMAP diet has been shown to alleviate symptoms in some. FODMAP is a diet where you eat foods that contain little or none of the carbohydrates that the intestine has difficulty breaking down.
Talk to a dietitian if you want to try eating according to FODMAPs.

If your symptoms do not improve with home remedies and lifestyle changes, your doctor may suggest the use of adequate drug alternatives.
It is important that you tell your doctor what medicines you are already taking, including herbal and over-the-counter medicines. This helps your doctor avoid prescribing something that may interact negatively with the medication you are already taking.
Some drugs are given to treat all symptoms of IBS, while others, including antibiotics, are focused on the specific symptoms and are prescribed to control muscle spasms, fight constipation, treat depression, relieve pain, etc.

Although there are many ways to treat IBS, the cause of the syndrome is still unknown. Possible causes include hypersensitive gut or the immune system, while post-infectious IBS (PI-IBS), on the other hand, is caused by a previous bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract.
The uncertainty surrounding the causes makes it difficult to prevent IBS. But it is known that the physical processes often include:
• slow or spastic movements of the colon, causing painful cramps
• abnormal serotonin levels in the colon, which affects motility and bowel movements,
• mild celiac disease which damages the intestines and causes IBS symptoms.

In most cases, the key to managing IBS symptoms is to avoid triggers, such as,
certain foods and stress.
Although certain foods are common triggers for many IBS symptoms, not all of them will have the same effect on you. Keep a detailed food diary to learn which foods are triggers in your specific case.
Anticipating the circumstances that can cause stress and anxiety is also important.
Try to avoid such situations or develop strategies to deal with negative emotions that arise, this will also help you keep your IBS symptoms under control.

The automatic movements of the digestive system are largely controlled by you
nervous system. In a stressful situation, your nerves are negatively affected, so that our
digestive system, for example, can become overactive.
In a stressful situation, your nerves are negatively affected, so that our digestive system can become overactive, for example. In other words, if you have IBS, your bowel movements may be overly responsive to even the slightest disturbances in your digestive system.

In most cases, IBS does not affect a person's weight. But if you don't eat enough (to avoid some of the symptoms, such as cramping after meals), IBS can potentially lead to weight loss.
If frequent diarrhea is one of your symptoms, your body may not be getting all the nutrients from the food you eat, causing unwanted weight loss.

Diarrhea is a symptom of a specific type of IBS (diarrheal IBS or IBS-D) that primarily affects the colon.
Common symptoms of IBS that cause diarrhea include nausea and frequent bowel movements. In rare cases, IBS with diarrhea can lead to loss of bowel control.

IBS with constipation is a type of IBS (constipated IBS or IBS-C) that usually affects adolescents and young adults, causing hard stools and abdominal discomfort.