Irritable bowel syndrome is a relatively common condition that affects around 6-18% of the global population. It can have a big impact on a person’s daily functioning as it results in stomach pain as well as how often a person uses the bathroom. Symptoms generally vary between people as does what sets them off which makes giving an exact cause difficult. Experiencing symptoms of IBS may be connected to stress, unhealthy sleeping habits, the food you eat, and changes in the bacteria in the gut. If you do experience symptoms of IBS, it is important to visit your doctor to rule out any other medical conditions. Below we will discuss the main symptoms of IBS and what can be done about them.

#1 Abdominal Pain

This is one of the main symptoms of IBS and it can sometimes make getting through the day difficult. The pain is generally in the lower stomach region or the whole stomach – pain is very unlikely to just be experienced in the upper stomach area. This pain will usually go away or reduce after having a bowel movement. The cause of this pain is generally due to the food you are eating and the digestion process not working as it should. During digestion, signals are sent between the brain and the gut controlling the process of food moving through the intestinal tract. But when these signals are distorted, the muscles of the intestinal tract which contract to push waste through, become uncoordinated which can lead to painful cramping.

#2 Bloating

This effect on the digestion process can also lead to excess gas being produced in the gut leading to bloating. Bloating is a very uncomfortable symptom of IBS which most people identify with as one of the more frustrating symptoms. Avoiding certain foods such as lactose, beans, lentils, broccoli and other gas-producing foods should help minimize this symptom.

#3 Problematic Bowel Movements

There are three main types of IBS, and which type you have, is determined by your bowel movements. These include IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea, and IBS with a mixture of the two. IBS with constipation is the most common of the three, affecting around 50% of IBS sufferers. This is as a result of waste products moving too slowly through the digestive tract, allowing it to absorb more water which makes it harder to excrete. You are only considered to be constipated if you have less than three bowel movements a week. IBS with diarrhea is experienced by approximately one-third of IBS sufferers. This is a result of waste products moving too quickly through the digestive tract and can leave you feeling with a sudden urge to use the bathroom. This can cause significant stress and result in avoiding going out and being social. IBS which involves both constipation and diarrhea is experienced by about 20% of sufferers. This type seems to cause more intense pain than other types.

#4 Tiredness And Problems Sleeping

More than 50% of those who suffer from IBS experience fatigue and lack of energy. One study found that how fatigued a person felt was directly connected to how intense their symptoms were. IBS has also been found to be connected to insomnia, which is interesting because poor sleep is one of the main triggers of IBS.

What Can You Do To Find Relief?

The majority of people who suffer from IBS experience certain foods to be their trigger. Why this is is not clear, but these foods are often lactose, gluten, and gas-producing foods (FODMAPs). Cutting these foods out of your diet should help improve symptoms. Other lifestyle changes such as managing your stress, exercising, and drinking sufficient water can also help. If symptoms are seriously getting in the way of you living your life, you should visit your doctor. A gastroenterologist can help you better identify your triggers which will help you better manage your symptoms.

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