Article By: Dr. Jagan Mohan Reddy
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Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an intestinal disorder that may lead to a few common symptoms include constipation, bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
A fast-paced lifestyle, and now the work from home culture brought in by the pandemic, has resulted in several changes in eating and sleeping routines, leading to health issues. People often tend to dismiss the occasional abdominal pain and bloating to gastric problems but they can also be initial symptoms of an intestinal condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an intestinal disorder that is quite prevalent in India. Symptoms of IBS may vary among individuals, but a few common symptoms include constipation, bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. In the case of IBS, there is abnormal functioning of the bowel where the food either moves too quickly or too slowly through the intestine during digestion.
Mild cases of IBS can often be managed with the adoption of clinically prescribed changes in diet and lifestyle. However, in severe cases, the patient needs to undergo medication and counselling. Although there is treatment for IBS, it can only help in managing it but not cure it. Early diagnosis will help in better management and reduce its impact. For this to be made possible, one needs to be made aware of the signs and symptoms of IBS. However Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion.
Here are 5 early warning signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
1. Abdominal pain and cramps
Abdominal pain is a common symptom of IBS and is a key sign for the diagnosis. The intensity of pain reduces after a bowel movement, prior to which it is pretty severe. Pain can be managed with modified diets and with the use of bowel relaxants or bowel relaxation techniques.
Changes in the digestion process can trigger higher production of gas in the stomach making one feel bloated.
3. Abnormal bowel movements
Abnormal bowel movements like diarrhoea, constipation or mixed bowel habits are a major sign of IBS which is of three types: IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhoea and IBS with mixed bowel habits (constipation and diarrhoea). Diarrhoea-type has symptoms of loose and watery stools excretion, which happens more frequently than normal. Constipation-type has symptoms of having fewer bowel movements than usual and also gives a feeling of incomplete bowel movement. Constipation also causes abdominal pain. The third type of IBS, mixed or alternating diarrhoea and constipation is associated with alternating periods of diarrhoea and constipation. In the latter 2 cases, abdominal pain is relieved post-bowel movements. Along with the usual treatment for IBS, exercising and increased consumption of water may help.
4. Varied stool form and texture
Due to changes in bowel movements including the rate of movement and the amount of time in the intestine, the stool is affected in various ways. Slow-moving stools in the intestine turn out to be very dry due to the over absorption of water by the intestine. This leads to constipation. Conversely, fast-moving stools in the intestine become watery due to the under absorption of water by the intestine. This leads to diarrhoea. Sometimes, blood may be present in the stool, although rare, is another sign of IBS and needs immediate medical attention to rule out inflammable bowel disease also.
5. Food intolerance
Most patients who are diagnosed with IBS have a link to food intolerance. There are specific foods that trigger IBS in individuals. Some of the most common foods include caffeine, processed foods, alcohol, dairy products and more.
Apart from this, other signs that are associated with IBS are fatigue, poor quality of sleep, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression.
In addition to this, with the onset of summer, dehydration can lead to higher levels of constipation and also aggravate IBS. As a preventive measure, it is recommended to stay hydrated. Hence, irritable bowel syndrome is a difficult problem to get treated but with good lifestyle changes and regular follow up with experts one can keep it controlled.