What is IBS?

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

One out of seven Americans suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS.  April is national IBS Awareness month.  Dr. Gustavo Rodriguez, Family Practitioner at The Austin Diagnostic Clinic Cedar Park explains more about the disease.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a syndrome that is characterized by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of cause. It is the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal condition. IBS affects men and women, young patients, and older adults.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

The symptoms include chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits remain the nonspecific but primary symptoms of IBS.  Abdominal pain in IBS is usually described as a cramping sensation. The location and character of the pain can vary widely. The severity of the pain may range from mildly annoying to debilitating. Several factors, such as emotional stress and eating, may exacerbate the pain, while defecation often provides some relief. Patients with IBS also complain of altered bowel habits, ranging from diarrhea, constipation or alternating diarrhea and constipation.

How is it diagnosed and is there a cure?

Unfortunately there is no diagnostic test to diagnose IBS or cure. The diagnosis is based on criteria. This criteria includes: Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least three days per month in the last three months associated with two or more of the following:

  1. Improvement with defecation
  2. Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool
  3. Onset associated with a change in the appearance of stool

Is there anything an individual can do to avoid or offset IBS?

Establishment of the clinician-patient relationship and continuity of care are critical to the management of all individuals with IBS. In patients with mild and intermittent symptoms, we begin by recommending lifestyle and dietary modifications. For example: exclusion of gas-producing foods such as beans, onions, celery, carrots, raisins, bananas, apricots, prunes. A diet low in fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols [FODMAPs] such as  foods that contain fructose, including honey, high-fructose corn syrup, apples, pears, mangoes, cherries, or oligosaccharides, including wheat. In select cases, lactose and gluten avoidance) and a trial of psyllium (fiber supplement) in patients with IBS with constipation. Physical activity is also advised in patients with IBS given a potential benefit with regard to IBS symptoms and the general health benefits of exercise. For those whose symptoms fail to improve with lifestyle and dietary modifications there are adjunctive medications which can improve quality of life.