It’s completely normal for you to feel a little gassy or bloated after a good meal. What isn’t normal is when you feel any stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain over a long period of time. This could mean that you’re suffering from a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder like the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can turn out to be a very painful and uncomfortable experience.
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
IBS is one of the most common GI disorders diagnosed by medical practitioners and is an extremely common occurrence among women. As a functional disorder, IBS is a collection of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, that go on for at least 3 months. There are 4 main types of IBS:
- Diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D)
- Constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C)
- IBS with alternating stool patterns (IBS-A)
- Post-infectious IBS (IBS-PI)
IBS can completely take over your daily routine. You’ll feel a constant need to have to plan your days and nights so you can stay close to a bathroom at all times. Additionally, IBS stems from more than just thoughts and stress levels. However, this GI disorder doesn’t lead to any serious diseases like cancer. It also doesn’t harm your large intestine or colon permanently.1
Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Generally, IBS involves continuous abdominal pain coupled with altered bowel movements over an extended period of time. But, the pain and bowel movements can take many forms. Symptoms of IBS can vary greatly from one person to another and range from mild to extreme.
While women are the most likely to have IBS, most people aged under 50 are at the risk of being diagnosed, too. Even people whose family members have a history of this GI disorder are likely to get IBS. To put things into perspective, IBS symptoms typically show up during your childhood, and in most cases, it’s always before 40 years of age.
Women with IBS are also known to exhibit more severe symptoms during their menstrual cycles. Here’s a list of the most common symptoms of IBS and what you can do about them so you’re well-equipped to be on the road to recovery.2
1. Pain And Cramping
Abdominal pain — the most common symptom — is a key factor in the diagnosis of IBS. Usually, your gut and brain work as a team to control your digestive process via hormones, nerves, and signals released by your good gut bacteria. If you have IBS, these cooperative signals can get distorted, leading to uncoordinated and painful tension in your digestive tract muscles. This pain is what you feel in your lower abdomen or your entire abdomen. Following bowel movements, this pain typically decreases.
How To Fix It
A modified diet, like a diet low in fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs), may relieve the abdominal pain and other symptoms. You could also try bowel relaxants like peppermint oil.
2. Constipation And Diarrhea
Any form of altered communication between your brain and bowel has the potential to speed up or slow down the normal transit time for stools. When this transit time slows down, your bowel begins to absorb more water from your stools, making it hard and more difficult to pass freely. You’re said to be constipated if you have fewer than three bowel movements per week. When you’re constipated, your abdominal pain can ease up with bowel movements. However, constipation can also cause a sensation of an incomplete bowel movement. This can quite possibly lead to unnecessary straining.
Frequent, loose stools are a common symptom of diarrhea-predominant IBS. As your bowel transit process gets accelerated, you can end up with a sudden urge to have a bowel movement. This can be a significant source of stress for you as you always have the fear of a sudden onset of diarrhea. In addition, your stool can be loose and watery and may contain mucus.
How To Fix It
Engaging in a good amount of physical exercise, drinking more water, eating soluble fiber, taking probiotics, and limiting the use of laxatives may help you a great deal.
3. Fatigue And Difficulty Sleeping
Another important symptom exhibited by people suffering from IBS is fatigue. If you’re diagnosed with IBS, chances are that you’ll have low stamina levels, thereby limiting your physically exertions at work or outside.
IBS can also be related to insomnia. This includes difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently, and feeling unrested in the morning. Your poor sleeping pattern can also lead to more severe gastrointestinal symptoms the following day.
How To Fix It
Maintain a diet that’s rich in soluble fibers and probiotics. Recharge yourself constantly with fluids and ensure that your sleeping pattern doesn’t change every day. It would be great if you can get to bed early and wake up early too.
4. Anxiety And Depression
While IBS can be linked to anxiety and depression, it’s quite unclear if IBS symptoms are an expression of your mental stress or if the stress of living with IBS makes you more prone to psychological difficulties. Truth is anxiety and digestive IBS symptoms reinforce one another as part of a vicious cycle.
How To Fix It
Tackle your anxiety and depression by opting for effective treatment techniques, including anxiety reduction therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and hypnotherapy.