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Ins and Outs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

April 13, 2022 Posted in: Primary Care

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common medical condition that affects approximately 15% of the population. This common disorder impacts the large intestine and often results in cramping, bloating, gas, abdominal pain and change in bowel habits that include constipation, diarrhea or alternating diarrhea and constipation. You’re at higher risk if you’re a woman, have a family history of the condition, have had a severe digestive tract infection, food intolerance or are experiencing anxiety, tension or emotional stress. 

IBS is chronic, and symptoms can wax and wane over many years – meaning patients will need to manage symptoms long term. 

One thing that makes diagnosis of IBS tricky is that it is often mistaken for other medical conditions including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), dyspepsia, Inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease and rarely, more serious conditions such as colon cancer. There are also no reliable blood tests or other diagnostic tests for IBS. However, your physician may run tests to rule out other medical conditions that have similar IBS symptoms. 

Long Term Treatment

Treatment for IBS is multifaceted – and includes diet modification, stress reduction, increased exercise, and occasionally, with medication. Dietary modifications can include a decrease in gas producing foods as well as certain carbohydrates, lactose, and gluten. Symptoms are often worse when people are undergoing periods of significant stress in their lives, so stress reduction is an important treatment for IBS.

There are different types of IBS including IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea, or IBS with mixed bowel habits. Your individual treatment will depend on your specific symptoms. 

While there are no definitive methods of preventing IBS, healthy lifestyle pursuits like eating a balanced diet, regular exercise and stress reduction can decrease the associated symptoms. 

If you think you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away. Yes, IBS is a chronic, but it also a non-life-threatening medical condition that can be managed. It’s important to track and review your abdominal symptoms with your healthcare provider to ensure accurate diagnosis and exclude other more potentially serious medical conditions. 

Need a primary care physician? CHI Memorial Medical Group has locations throughout Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia that welcome new patients. 

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