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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and You

Updated on April 27, 2011
April is IBS Month
April is IBS Month | Source

Nasty and Incurable IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the colon (large intestine). IBS causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, even constipation. The only good news about IBS is that it does not cause permanent damage to the colon.Irritable bowel syndrome does not cause inflammation or bowel tissue changes, and does not increase your risk of colorectal cancer as more-serious intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

But, as good as it is to know that your chances of colorectal cancer is not increased, living with IBS is not easy! The cramping, bloating and gas are tough enough to deal with, now add the fact that you'd better be near (very near) a bathroom at any given moment!

IBS takes over your life, virtually! You will find yourself planning your daily chores, errands, social dates, exercise, and even vacations by knowing where the closest restroom is located and how long it will take you to get there.

A day in the life of a person afflicted with IBS might evolve with the following scenarios:

1. You wake up and instantly need to get to the bathroom! There is no lounging around under your warm comfy covers. There can never be a spontaneous encounter with your lover, as this would be far too risky. IBS will dictate when you are allowed to be intimate with your partner.

2. Okay, so perhaps after spending 30 minutes getting to know your commode, you finally make it to grab that first cup of coffee. As you take one or two sips of that delightful liquid, another sensation is looming on the horizon. Oh, yes, it's back to the bathroom you go.

3. Perhaps after your first waking hour you are 'normal' enough to get dressed and start your day. Of course, you must avoid foods or the whole process will begin again. So, you drink lots and lots of liquids, as liquids do not seem to promote an attack of IBS.

4. However, you must fuel your body with food at some point during the day and this, most likely, will trigger another round on the battlefield. You're hungry and you know you need to eat but can you make it back to the office before the cramping, bloating and gas begins? Can you make it through the afternoon staff meeting? Can you make it to your car and drive home without having an embarrassing accident?

5. How many times have you heard the terrifying sounds of rumbling in your lower belly, and know you have only a few seconds to get to a bathroom? The cramping begins and the need for a commode is NOW, not 5 or 30 minutes from now. The simplest of things, like blowing our nose, sneezing, coughing, or lifting lightweight items can cause the bowels to let go and you realize you have just soiled your undergarment. Sounds funny, but it's no joke! You can be in the middle of grocery shopping and you have an attack - it comes out of the blue!

6. Sometimes just 'thinking' of eating something can trigger an attack of IBS. If you encounter a stressful situation, be prepared to high-tail it to the bathroom in a split second notice. Sometimes IBS can strike without the forewarning cramps. Sometimes there are no urges, it just happens! And, no doubt, you run the risk of being humiliated and embarrassed.

7. For many (if not most), the consistency of the stool when IBS strikes is liquid. No matter what you eat, the result will not be anywhere a normal bowel movement. Because the stool is liquid, there is virtually no way to hold it and the body will release it whenever or wherever you are! This is not your usual case of irregularity or diarrhea - this is an out and out unstoppable attack.

8. Taking anti-diarrhea tablets, such as Immodium-D, can help but cannot prevent the revenge of IBS once their effects wear off. And, you cannot depend that these anti-diarrhea concoctions will get you through the entire day - much less an entire morning or afternoon! Sometimes they can prevent IBS attacks for 3-4 hours, or perhaps longer, depending on the severity of the IBS. I had a doctor tell me that taking anti-diarrhea medicine is okay and to do so several times through the day. However, sooner or later the raging IBS symptoms will overcome the anti-diarrhea tabs and you will be spending much time sitting on the commode. The cramping can be more severe, perhaps because the IBS violence was held at bay throughout the past few hours.

Can You Strike a Truce with IBS?

Treating IBS may include dietary changes, medication, stress reduction, or behavioral therapy. Alternative treatments like acupuncture, dietary supplements and herbs are not always recommended by professionals, but some people have lessened IBS symptoms.

IBS is complex and involves problems with bowel movements, stomach pain, bloating, gas, and discomfort. Basically, the goal is to improve your life while living with IBS symptoms.

Sometimes changing the foods in your diet can help ease IBS with diarrhea. Avoiding chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, fructose can help to alleviate IBS symptoms.

Fried foods and fiber can also worsen diarrhea symptoms. But, you must not avoid fiber altogether as the nutrient helps prevent diseases such as colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Fiber also prevents diarrhea from turning into constipation. However, fiber can cause flatulence and bloating.

Consuming soluble versus insoluble fiber is best when dealing with IBS diarrhea, because soluble fiber takes a longer time to leave the digestive system. Good sources of soluble fiber include barley, oat bran, fruit flesh instead of fruit skin, and beans (navy, pinto, and lima). Keeping a record of foods that seem to trigger the diarrhea attacks can be helpful. Personally, some foods might cause me a problem today, but not tomorrow.

Some professionals suggest drinking six to eight glasses of water a day. Some suggest drinking water an hour before or after meals. Drinking water with meals can make the food r un through your system faster. However, as I've said, drinking liquids do not cause me a problem, no matter when I drink them. It's the food, any food. Take one bite of something solid and off to the bathroom I go.

IBS is nasty and interrupts almost everything in your life, and will control and dictate much of what you do. Most of the time, as long as I don't eat foods I will be fine, but, living life cannot not be done without ingesting energy. Presently, there are no real answers or information about how to cure or truly control IBS. About the only definite thing known about IBS is that once you have it, you are stuck with it for the rest of your life (or so my doctor has told me).

My doctor has prescribed approximately ten different drugs (so far) and none have worked. I've added probiotics and fiber to my daily regimine, but notice little to no improvement. There is one drug (Belladonna) that my doctor has prescribed to reduce cramping. Belladonna does a good job with the cramping, however, it's also a barbituate and can damage other internal organs.

So, what do you do? I don't know! If you have a solution to IBS, please share it with the world. Many people suffering from this life-alterating disease would be most appreciative.


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      5 years ago

      I have just been diagnosed with IBS but have had it for years... it has recently become worse, and everything you just stated is me. It sucks and there is really no cure.