What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS) is a gastrointestinal (GI) condition that causes abdominal pain and bowel movement irregularities. IBS may occur in 11% of the population worldwide, and symptoms can present at any age.
IBS is a functional GI disorder, meaning there are not substantive physical changes to the gut, but the GI system still doesn't function normally. As a result, intrusive symptoms occur. The main symptoms of IBS are:
- Abdominal pain
- Altered bowel habits like diarrhea and constipation
- Food sensitivity and intolerances
What causes IBS?
IBS is considered a disorder of the gut-brain interaction. Changes in how the nerves in the gut function, and/or how they communicate with the brain, can cause IBS symptoms. Although experts don't know exactly what causes these changes, they likely arise from multiple factors. One factor that has gained some interest is the possible role of the gut's natural flora. Alterations in the gut's microbiome may impact how the nerves in the gut function. Your provider may run tests to rule out other reasons for your symptoms.
Are there different types of IBS?
IBS is a condition in which symptoms can change depending on how the body is reacting to certain foods or stresses. While people with IBS experience various gastrointestinal symptoms, they typically have a predominant bowel pattern, which determines their subtype of IBS.
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C) occurs when bowel movements are difficult to produce. Symptoms include:
- ~~Abdominal pain
- ~~Feeling like you’ve had an incomplete bowel movement
- ~~Hard stools
- ~~Straining during bowel movements
- IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) occurs when bowel movements are diarrheal. Symptoms include:
- ~~Frequent stools
- ~~Loose stools
- ~~Sudden urge to have a bowel movement
- IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M) occurs when you deal with diarrhea and constipation without a consistent pattern. The change can occur over hours or days, or even alternate weeks to months. Symptoms include:
- ~~Abdominal pain
- ~~Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- ~~Changes in frequency of stool
- ~~Feeling an incomplete BM
- ~~Mucus in the stool
Other factors for IBS
IBS can also occur after an infection or diverticulitis episode.
- Post-infectious IBS occurs spontaneously after infection with no prior IBS symptoms. The inflammation caused by the infection can lead to a disruption in the gut microbiome. This can disturb the nutrient absorption of the GI system. It can last for months or become a chronic condition. Symptoms include:
- ~~Increased mucus
- Post-diverticulitis IBS appears after a bout with diverticulitis, which is a sudden or long-lasting inflammation of pouches that occurs in the digestive tract. Studies show a possible link between diverticulitis and IBS. Symptoms include:
- ~~Abdominal pain
Treatment for different types of IBS
Treatments for the different types of IBS vary. If your IBS symptoms fit in a certain subset, keeping a record of GI symptoms that occur before and after treatments is crucial to determining their success.
- Medications are one line of treatment for different types of IBS, and may help manage constipation and diarrhea.
- Lifestyle and diet changes can help IBS symptoms as well. Avoiding caffeine, quitting smoking, and exercising can help to relieve symptoms.
- A drug-free therapy that helps regulate brain-gut interactions, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is scientifically proven to relieve IBS symptoms over the long term. Mahana brings together this therapy and additional tools and lessons for personalized IBS symptom relief.
If you have symptoms consistent with IBS, make an appointment with your healthcare provider for expert advice. Mahana for IBS is an app-based treatment program that helps you discover unhelpful patterns and triggers and teaches you skills to decrease your IBS symptoms. Reach out to your doctor to find out if Mahana IBS is a good fit.