Irritable bowel syndrome, symptoms and treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome, symptoms and treatment
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Irritable Bowel Syndrome [Adobestock]

Many young women experience consistent stomach pain, often unaware irritable bowel syndrome might be the main culprit.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that disrupts the normal functioning of the digestive system. Data from Gut BMJ suggests a prevalence between 26% and 33% in Nigeria.

IBS involves a combination of factors like abnormal muscle contractions in the gut and increased pain sensitivity.

It is more common in women than men. E.N. Okeke, in an essay published in African Journals, stated that there’s a 30% prevalence in females in Western Nigeria and a similar figure in the South.

Hormonal fluctuations may play a role, with symptoms often worsening during menstruation and post-menopause. While the exact link isn’t fully understood, some research suggests hormones like oestrogen and progesterone might be involved.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

According to gastroenterologist Roshini Raj of NYU Langone, “Once we’ve ruled out celiac, lactose intolerance, or even Crohn’s or colon cancer, then you diagnose someone with IBS.”

These are the symptoms.

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bloating and gas
  • Changes in bowel habits: IBS can cause diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination.
  • Changes in stool consistency: Stool may be loose and watery or hard and lumpy.
  • Other symptoms: Some people with IBS may experience fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, or depression.

Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

While there’s no cure for IBS, we spoke to a Lagos-based doctor about how you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life: Here’s what he said.

  1. Dietary changes: Identifying and avoiding trigger foods can provide relief. This includes avoiding foods high in fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, as well as alcohol and caffeine. Reducing insoluble fibres and increasing soluble fibres in meals like beans, oats and barley.
  2. Manage stress: Stress can trigger IBS. Try exercise, meditation, or therapy to let go of stress and relax.
  3. Probiotics: These supplements may help restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
  4. Drugs: Medications like antispasmodics, laxatives, or fibre supplements can be prescribed based on your symptoms.
  5. Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, good sleep habits, hydration, and a healthy diet are all important for managing IBS.
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IBS can be challenging, but with proper understanding and management strategies, you can regain control of your digestive health.

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