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The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Disease

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What is this Condition?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition marked by chronic or occasional diarrhea, alternating with constipation and accompanied by straining and abdominal cramps. Most people can control or eliminate this condition by avoiding the foods and activities that cause it.

What Causes it?

This problem with the way the digestive tract works is often linked to psychological stress. However, irritable bowel may be caused by disease, abuse of laxatives, food poisoning, colon cancer or, most probably, eating and drinking things that a person can’t tolerate.

What are its Symptoms?

Irritable bowel syndrome usually produces lower abdominal pain (often relieved by a bowel movement or passage of gas) and diarrhea during the day. These symptoms alternate with constipation or normal bowel function. Stools are often small and contain visible mucus. The person may have indigestion and bloating too.

How is it Diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about recent events in a person’s life, such as a stressful change that may interfere with his or her digestion. The doctor will also rule out other disorders, such as infections, colon cancer, and lactose intolerance. The exam may include using a scope to see into the intestine, a barium enema X-ray, rectal biopsy, and stool analysis for blood, parasites, and bacteria.

How is it Treated?

The doctor may recommend counseling if the person needs to learn about the relationship between stress and illness. Strict dietary restrictions aren’t necessary, but the person can pinpoint foods that are irritating and avoid them.

Rest and heat applied to the abdomen are helpful, as is the judicious use of sedatives, such as Barbara, and antispasmodics. However, with continued use, a person could become dependent on these drugs. If the cause of irritable bowel syndrome is chronic laxative abuse, the individual can learn other methods to achieve regularity.

What can a Person with Irritable Bowel Syndrome do?

While you work on discovering what foods to avoid, investigate the value of increased bulk in your diet to avoid laxatives. Getting help with the stress in your life may be the best way to avoid dependence on sedatives or antispasmodics.

Finally, even though you may solve your immediate problem, get regular checkups because irritable bowel syndrome is associated with a higher-than-normal chance of diverticulitis and colon cancer. If you are over age 40, get an annual sigmoidoscopy and rectal exam to be safe.

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