Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

WHAT IS IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). Irritable bowel syndrome commonly causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation. IBS is a chronic condition that you will need to manage long term.

Even though signs and symptoms are uncomfortable, IBS — unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease — doesn't cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

Only a small number of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress. Others will need medication and counselling.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. Among the most common are:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • A bloated feeling
  • Gas
  • Diarrhoea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhoea
  • Mucus in the stool

For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although there will likely be times when the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely.

COMPLEMENTARY THERAPY

The following complementary therapies may help relieve symptoms of IBS:

  • Osteopathy
  • Massage
  • Reflexology
  • Acupuncture. Researchers have found that acupuncture may help improve symptoms for people with IBS.
  • Herbs. Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic that relaxes smooth muscles in the intestines. Peppermint may provide short-term relief of IBS symptoms, but study results have been inconsistent. If you'd like to try peppermint, be sure to use enteric-coated capsules. Peppermint may make heartburn worse. Before taking any herbs, check with your doctor to be sure they won't interact or interfere with other medications. A blend of herbs called STW 5 (Iberogast) has been shown to help some people.
  • Hypnosis. Hypnosis may reduce abdominal pain and bloating. A trained professional teaches you how to enter a relaxed state and then guides you in relaxing your abdominal muscles.
  • Probiotics. Probiotics are "good" bacteria that normally live in your intestines and are found in certain foods, such as yoghurt, and in dietary supplements. It's been suggested that if you have irritable bowel syndrome, you may not have enough good bacteria and that adding probiotics to your diet may help ease your symptoms. Recent studies suggest that certain probiotics may relieve symptoms of IBS, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and quality of life, although additional investigation is needed.
  • Regular exercise, yoga or meditation. These can all be useful ways to relieve stress. You can take classes in yoga and meditation or practice at home using books or videos.

THERAPY OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR THIS CONDITION AT BROOKS-CARTER CLINIC