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You may be surprised how many people are facing the same problem as you are: irritable bowl syndrome. Only in United States 50 million people must deal with diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, cramping and other annoying symptoms.

What is irritable bowel syndrome and who is affected?

Irritable bowel syndrome is disorder of colon in which bowel overreacts to a mild stimulus. This stimulus may be as simple as eating or the presence of gas, and then the large bowel (colon) goes into spasm.

Some people experience irritable bowel syndrome just as mild annoyance, while others suffer from big problems: people are unable to work, travel etc. Irritable bowel syndrome causes in some people great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer.  

Irritable bowel syndrome is very common and it affects more than 50 millions Americans, or generally speaking as many as one in five of population. It occurs more often in women than men, and is most common in people in their 20s and 30s: it begins before the age of 35 in about 50 percent of people.

What causes irritable bowel syndrome?

No one really knows for sure why some people develop irritable bowel syndrome and why other don't. Sometimes it can appear after gastrointestinal infection, but there are many factors that contribute to it. These factors include diet, exercise, genetics, hormones, stress, etc.  

Theory also claims that people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome have a colon (large bowel) that is particularly sensitive and reactive to certain foods and stress. The immune system, which fights infection, may also be involved.

Researchers have found that women who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome have more symptoms during their menstrual periods, which suggesting that reproductive hormones (estrogen in women and testosterone in men) can worsen problems.

Researchers have also found that large meals and certain foods, such as diary products, wheat, rye, barley, chocolate, alcohol, coffee, tea or other drinks that contain caffeine are associated with worsening of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

Some people report a constant worsening of symptoms over time, while others find their  symptoms subside for a few months and then return. Irritable bowl syndrome, as many other disorders, has symptoms that vary from person to person. However, most often symptoms of irritable bowel movement are:
  • abdominal pain and cramping (abdominal pain is usually relieved by having a bowel movement)
  • bloating sensation
  • belching and flatulence
  • unusual bowel movements (constipation, diarrhea, stool may be small in size and have mucous)
  • nausea, vomiting, heartburn

Irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis

No specific tests are made to determine whether you have irritable bowel syndrome. After ruling out various other disorders such as colon cancer or Crohn's disease, which are made on the basis of diagnostic tests, doctor simply makes a diagnosis on the basis of your symptoms. Tests to rule out other disease include stool sample testing, blood tests, and x rays. Doctor also performs colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, which allows the doctor to look inside the colon by inserting a small, flexible tube with a camera on the end of it through the anus which then transfers the images of your colon onto a large screen for the doctor to see better.      

Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome

There is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome, but there are options available to treat the symptoms.  Unfortunately, many people that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, do not seek medical treatment: even up to  70 percent of people suffering from IBS are not receiving medical care for their symptoms.
First, let's start with dietary changes. As mentioned above, many people find particular foods upset their stomachs and trigger irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. For that reason they must accept certain changes in their diet, which eventually lead to improvement and control their disorder. Diet, high in fibers, including fruit and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals helps softening stools and relieve constipation. But do cut off vegetables that produce gas, such as beans. Cut out fatty and spicy food, and artificial sweeteners. It is recommended to replace drinks that contain caffeine with herbal teas, such as peppermint and chamomile, which comparing to caffeine calm down stomach. It is also recommendable to drink more water- at least 6 glasses daily. 
Stress and other emotional problems, such as anger, emotional tension etc are also a factor that affect irritable bowl syndrome. An important part of irritable bowel treatment is stress management. Stress management includes stress reduction with relaxation techniques such as meditation, regular exercise such as walking, running, yoga or whatever you prefer, and of course support from family and friends or counseling.     
Another option that relieves irritable bowel symptoms are medicines. No cure has been found, but certain medicines do relieve symptoms. If you have constipation, doctor may suggest fiber supplements or laxatives. If you have diarrhea, your doctor may prescribe medicines such as Lomotil or Imodium. If you have abdominal pain, antispasmodic is commonly prescribed, which helps to control colon muscle spasms and reduce abdominal pain. And if you have depression, there is also solution in medicines, but do try more natural approach first. Namely, both antispasmodics and antidepressants can worsen constipation, thus another medicine to treat constipation can be prescribed. Some of medications, such as laxatives that relax muscles in the bladder and intestines, and are prescribed to treat constipation, contain mild sedative, which can be habit forming. For that reason they need to be used under the guidance of a physician. Actually, every medications, even over-the counter medications must be followed according to your doctor's or pharmacist's instructions.
There are also medications available that treat only irritable bowel syndrome. These medications are:
Lotronex (Alosetron hydrochloride), which should be used with caution because it can have serious side effects such as decreased blood flow to the colon or severe constipation. Besides, women with severe irritable bowel syndrome who have diarrhea as primary symptom  and have not responded to conventional therapy, are not allowed to take this medicine. 
Zelnorm (Tegaserod maleate) is approved as a short-term treatment (4 to 6 weeks) for patients with irritable bowel syndrome whose primary symptom is  constipation. If person  experiences a decrease in symptoms, doctor may prescribe Zelnorm for an additional 4 to 6 weeks.

In conclusion

As mentioned before in the article, medicines affect people in many different ways. For that reason try to control your symptoms with proper diet and stress management, or if that doesn't help, consult with your doctor to find the best combination of diet, counseling and other stress management techniques, and of course medicines, that can contol your symptoms.