What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS or spastic colon is a group of symptoms that affect the gastrointestinal system. It is a chronic condition and a most challenging one as people experience different sets of symptoms. It is one of the most uncomfortable and sensitive digestive problems. It is a type of functional dyspepsia where there are no structural abnormalities found during routine investigations. The symptoms mostly appear due to emotional stress, tension and anxiety and hence it is also called a nervous stomach.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The symptoms of IBS differ from person to person and are caused by various triggering factors. This makes the condition very difficult to treat. The most common triggers are certain food and medication, emotional stress, etc.
Some of the most experienced symptoms are:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Lower abdominal pain or cramps
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Changes in the bowel movement
- Frequent urge to stool and urine
- Irregular and abnormal bowel movements
- Either diarrhea, constipation or both alternately
- Excessive flatulence
- Excessive mucus in the stools
- Food intolerance
- Anxiety and depression
- Heartburn and indigestion
- Headaches and tiredness
- Women tend to have symptoms around the time of menstruation
What are the different types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
IBS is differentiated based on the type of abnormal bowel movement a person experiences. People with IBS experience different symptoms. They might have normal bowel movements for a few days and abnormal movement on the other few days. Some might have constipation as the main problem, while other people experience diarrhea as the main problem. Accordingly, it can be classified as:
- IBS-C: with constipation
- IBS-D: with diarrhea
- IBS-M: mixed bowel movements
- IBS-U: people who don’t fit into the above types
Who is at risk of developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
IBS usually affects the people in their late teens to late thirties. People are at higher risk if they have:
- A family history of IBS
- Being a women
- People with nervous disorders
- People who are emotionally sensitive
- People who suffer from emotional stress, or anxiety.
- Any intolerance to food such as lactose intolerance.
- People with a history of physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence.
- Severe digestive tract infection.
Causes and mechanism behind Irritable Bowel Syndrome
In people with IBS, the smooth muscles of the colon contract more frequently than normal people. This causes severe cramps and intolerable pain. It is called dysmotility of the colon. The nerves of the colon are also very sensitive and are easily affected due to any emotional stress. They might have excessive gut bacteria and there might also be a miscommunication in the brain-gut interaction contributing to the symptoms. Sometimes IBS may develop following a severe gastro-intestinal infection, changes in gut microbes and also due to exposure to stressful events at an early stage of life.
How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome diagnosed?
The diagnosis of IBS is based on the presentation of the symptoms, medical history and a physical examination. Depending on your symptoms, a few tests should be done to confirm the diagnosis.
- Blood tests, stool samples and X-rays to rule out other gastrointestinal diseases that mimic IBS.
- A flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to examine the colon to test for rectal bleeding or polyps.
- Upper endoscopy and X-rays
- Blood tests to rule out anemia, thyroid problems, and signs of infection
- Stool tests for blood or infections
- Tests for lactose intolerance, gluten allergy, or celiac disease
How to manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
There is no universal treatment for IBS. It differs according to each patient and their individual symptoms. Living with IBS is very challenging and since there is no cure, it can be managed through diet and lifestyle changes. Some of the few ways to manage IBS are:
- Increase the fiber in the diet such as fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts.
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks
- Limit milk and milk products
- Follow a gluten-free diet
- Try the low FODMAP diet, an eating plan especially designed for IBS
- Exercise regularly and practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress
- Avoid smoking and alcohol
- Take smaller meals at frequent gaps
- Note down the triggers and try to avoid them.
- Taking probiotics to relieve bloating
- Avoid deep-fried or spicy foods.
- Avoid too many antibiotics and antidepressants.
Complications of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Some of the complications of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Impacted bowel
- Food intolerance
- Affecting the day to day routine of life
- Depression and anxiety
IBS does not cause life-threatening problems but if there is a persistent change in bowel habits or other signs or symptoms, immediate medical attention may be needed. Some of the signs are:
- Weight loss
- Uncontrolled diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Unexplained vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent lower abdominal pain
What is a low FODMAP diet?
FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates found in most foods and it will be really hard to find a food item without them. These carbohydrates ferment and increase the volume of liquid and gas in the small and large intestines and lead to symptoms like flatulence, bloating, and abdominal pain. Eliminating or reducing the high-FODMAP foods would help to prevent these symptoms. A low-FODMAP diet is designed in two phases as part of an elimination diet. It is relatively new and it should be followed under the guidance of a properly trained nutritionist.
There are five types of FODMAPs:
- Fructans (found in wheat, onions, garlic, barley, cabbage, and broccoli)
- Fructose (found in fruit, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup)
- Galacto-oligosaccharides (found in legumes and beans)
- Lactose (found in milk and other dairy foods)
- Polyols (found in stone fruits, sweet potatoes, apples, and celery)
Homeopathic treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Nux Vomica: it is indicated for symptoms such as the passage of a small quantity of stool very frequently with abdomen pain. There is a frequent and constant urge to pass stool. The pain in the abdomen is relieved after stool. And once again the person begins to feel the urge immediately after passing the stools. Severe abdominal cramps and acidity aggravated by stress and mental exertion. The symptoms such as belching, fullness and indigestion are worse after taking, alcohol, smoking, drinking coffee, and eating spicy foods.
- Aloe Socotrina: it is indicated for a frequent urge to pass stool soon after eating or drinking anything. The person has to rush to the toilet for stool soon after eating or drinking anything and the stool is watery and loose accompanied by the passage of a large amount of flatus. Sometimes mucus may be expelled along with stool. The patient also experiences pain in the abdomen before and during stool.
- Alumina: it is indicated for irritable bowel syndrome where constipation predominates. Chronic constipation of the most obstinate kind. Sluggish digestion and slow movements of the intestines. The stool remains in the rectum for many days without any urge to pass the stool. The stool is expelled after too much strain. Difficulty in passing the stool even if it is soft.
- Carbo veg: it is useful in cases where even the simplest kind of food seems to worsen the condition. Flatulence and abdominal pain are relieved by flatus or belching. Frequent loose stool with an offensive odour. Cramping pain in the abdomen. Butter, fatty rich foods worsen the symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion along with weakness.
- Lycopodium: it is indicated for the fullness of the abdomen after eating a small quantity of food. The abdomen feels full and distended. Alternate diarrhoea and constipation. It is useful in cases of food intolerances, especially onions, oysters, cabbage and beans. Flatulence and heaviness are relieved by passing flatus.
- Croton Tiglium: it is indicated for symptoms such as urging for stool soon after eating or drinking. Watery and copious stool with extreme weakness after passing stool.
- Podophyllum Peltatum: is indicated for irritable bowel syndrome with profuse and putrid stool, fetid flatus and diarrhoea after eating fruits.
- Colocynthis: for irritable bowel syndrome with loose stools and abdominal cramps. Eating or drinking in the smallest quantity leads to abdominal cramps. Bending double or giving pressure over the abdomen provides relief from the pain and cramps. The symptoms are worse from anger or indignation. Stools are watery, yellow and frothy with much flatus.
- Pulsatilla Nigricans: taking milk or milk products worsens the complaints. Symptoms include rumbling in the abdomen, flatulence, bitter taste in the mouth, belching that tastes like food and alternate diarrhea and constipation.
- Argentum Nitricum: it is indicated for persistent diarrhea in people with chronic anxiety. Very anxious to appear in public, in crowds and in public meetings. The anxiety causes diarrhoea with frequent stools. Excessive flatulence, with very loud and forceful belching.
- Arsenicum album: abdominal cramps worse after taking cold food. Diarrhoea after drinking cold food or water. Better by taking a warm drink and lying down.
- Sulphur: it is indicated for abdominal cramps aggravated by touch. Burning pain in the abdomen is worse in the morning and at night. Bloating of the abdomen after eating. An empty feeling in the stomach even after eating properly.
- Bryonia alba: it is suited for symptoms aggravated after eating bread. There is increased thirst. The stomach feels so heavy like a stone. Chronic constipation with dry, large, hard stool. The stool is excessively dry as if burnt. Burning in anus while passing stool. Headache from constipation
- China Officinalis: it is indicated for excessive bloating with bitter or sour belching. The appetite changes drastically from being ravenous to loss of appetite or feeling full after eating a small amount. Fruit and milk aggravate the pain. Slow and sluggish digestion. Painless chronic diarrhea with loose stool marked flatus and bloated abdomen. Abdominal colic from flatulence of abdomen.
- Natrum muriaticum: it is indicated for symptoms such as sour belching with frequent hiccoughs. Painful stomach cramps, aggravated by touch. Strong emotions such as grief, or depression can aggravate the condition.
Some of the best homeopathic medicinal products from Dr. Wilmer Schwabe India to treat the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are Alpha-Acid, Alpha-DP, Alpha-Liv. Alpha-Liv Drops, Alpha-MS, Dizester, Dizester Herbal, Colikind for digestive troubles in infants and kids, Biocombination No:25, Biocombination No:03, Biocombination No: 04, Biocombination No: 08, Carduus Marianus Pentarkan, etc. They can be very useful to manage and control the symptom flare-ups if taken regularly along with a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle.