IBS Awareness Month: The facts of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you wonder whether you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you aren’t alone. In fact, IBS can be so common that many people live undiagnosed with symptoms for years. April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month, so now is a great time to learn the facts about IBS.

What is IBS?
IBS is a functional disorder in the colon, meaning the patient has no specific disease but experiences unpredictable changes in bowel activity and sometimes pain. The colon is not damaged or completely dysfunctional, only unstable enough to cause discomfort.

What are the symptoms?
Ranging from mild to severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, symptoms of IBS often are mistaken for a one-time abnormality or even ignored altogether.

What causes IBS?
For many patients, the symptoms of IBS are directly related to stress. Emotions such as anxiety, anger and frustration, whether short-term or ongoing, can cause or exacerbate physical reactions. The gastrointestinal tract is vulnerable to psychological disturbances. Some people report feeling their intestinal muscles tighten or contract when they are upset or describe the sensation as a stomachache. These physical reactions, especially long-term, can manifest as IBS.

Certain patients also may be sensitive to foods such as salads, spices, coffee or alcohol that irritate the colon and trigger symptoms. Other triggers range from illness or infections to food allergies or intolerances.

IBS sounds common. Why see a doctor?
IBS rarely leads to more complicated issues, but the symptoms can impact your life, job and other activities.  Although the cause of IBS varies, your gastroenterologist can pinpoint certain things that aggravate your symptoms. With proper habits and treatment, IBS can be controlled and mitigated for a better quality of life.

If you think you may have IBS, visit an expert. A gastroenterologist has in-depth knowledge of intestinal symptoms and causes and is best equipped to address questions, diagnoses and treatments.

Patients can visit GIA without a referral. Call us today at 865-588-5121 to schedule an appointment.