Irritable bowel or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a frequently occurring disease in the gastrointestinal area and the digestive organs. Flatulence and spasmodic stomach or abdominal pain are typical.
What is an irritable bowel?
One speaks of an irritable bowel (colon irritabile) when there is a functional disorder of the digestive tract, which manifests itself with chronic symptoms such as abdominal cramps, irregular bowel movements and flatulence. It is typical of an irritable bowel that the problems usually occur during the day and not during the night and the doctor does not find any pathological changes in the organs or the biochemistry of the body. For meanings of altitude sickness, please visit bestitude.com.
The irritable bowel is not dangerous, but often very annoying for those affected and the quality of life is restricted, since the intestine not only reacts upset to some foods, but also to stress. These restrictions, which are caused by the irritable bowel syndrome, usually last not only for days or months but sometimes for many years and the patient has to learn to come to terms with them.
The cause of this intestinal disorder is not yet known exactly. It is believed that mental overload caused by stress and anger promotes irritable bowel syndrome. The messenger substance serotonin is ascribed a key role here, it is responsible for the smooth flow of information between the brain and intestinal function.
Of course, food intolerances also play a major role in irritable bowel syndrome, as does eating behavior and diet (e.g. hectic eating, irregular meals).
The fact is that with irritable bowel movements in the intestine are disturbed and the perception of the normal digestive process is already perceived as painful. Researchers found that patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome have an increased number of white blood cells, the leukocytes. This would indicate an inflammation of the intestinal mucosa and could therefore be a cause of the symptoms.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are very varied. The exact symptoms allow for a further typification of the condition. In the case of predominantly soft stool, which occurs about three times a day, it is referred to as diarrhea. The constipation type is characterized by infrequent and hard stools. There is also a mixed type, in which hard bowel movements and diarrhea can occur in one day, and irritable bowel syndrome without a subtype. The latter refers to generalized complaints.
Those affected by irritable bowel syndrome often complain of pain and a strong feeling of fullness. Flatulence and subjectively felt bloating are much more uncomfortable for those affected than for people without irritable bowel syndrome. Some of those affected experience a clearly visible bloated stomach. The pain is perceived as very strong.
They can take the form of abdominal pain and cramps. They can often be described as stinging or pulling. A feeling of bloating often leads to tenderness. If there is pain, there will also be more bowel movements.
The pain usually subsides after repeated defecating. Nevertheless, the feeling of incomplete emptying often remains. Mucus may be present in the stool. As a rule, those affected are symptom-free at night. Symptoms can worsen with stress and after eating.
Course of the disease
Irritable bowel usually occurs for the first time between the ages of 20 and 30 and is widespread; in women twice as often as in men.
In addition to the pain and cramps in the abdominal area, the following symptoms can also occur: alternating diarrhea and constipation, a feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen, a change in the composition of the stool (from hard to mushy to watery), flatulence, audible digestive noises, exhaustion, lack of concentration, anxiety, depression, Insomnia, migraines and back pain.
Anyone who suffers from an irritable bowel syndrome is often under severe psychological strain, as these symptoms limit the overall quality of life and often last a lifetime.
Irritable bowel syndrome usually does not lead to physical complications, even if it is chronic. In severe cases with diarrhea, the persistent loss of fluids can lead to dehydration, which can be prevented by drinking enough water and adjusting your diet. The risk of dehydration can be eliminated by medical treatment. There is no increased risk for other diseases of the gastrointestinal tract for irritable bowel patients.
Weight gain or loss may result if patients make changes to their diet or avoid certain foods without medical advice. Complications of a psychological nature regularly arise. The disease is often associated with fears, such as of colon cancer or consequential damage.
Depending on the severity, irritable bowel syndrome can lead to subjectively perceived limitations in the patient’s everyday life, causing restlessness, tension and anxiety. Patients suffer from the fear of not having access to a toilet or appearing helpless in public if symptoms suddenly appear. As a result, social isolation and depression can occur.
Other side effects can be sleep disorders, fears and psychosomatic symptoms. Feelings of shame, such as with flatulence, can have negative effects on the partnership or sex life.
When should you go to the doctor?
People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome are often very restricted in everyday life. All foods, especially greasy spicy foods, cannot be properly digested in connection with the irritable bowel symptom. Under certain circumstances, it can lead to stinging stomach pains, which often occur immediately after consumption. A few minutes after the pain comes diarrhea, which can last for several hours. Anyone suffering from irritable bowel syndrome should always consult a doctor. The intestines and the gastric mucosa can be calmed down effectively with medication, so that no pain occurs after eating the foods mentioned above.
However, if the persons concerned do not do so, then considerable consequences can be expected. The pain gets worse over time, so that it persists even at rest. In particularly bad cases, permanent damage to the gastric mucosa can occur, making surgical intervention unavoidable.
Treatment & Therapy
Since curing the irritable bowel is not possible according to the current state of knowledge, an attempt must be made to alleviate the symptoms in order to bring the patient back some quality of life. A holistic concept can help here, which combines the change in eating habits, the administration of medication and psychotherapeutic treatment. Since there is no uniform irritable bowel diet, each patient has to find out what is good for them and what is not. A food diary can help here.
Food that is not well tolerated should of course be rigorously avoided in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Drinking a sufficient amount a day has proven to be helpful, as this also has a beneficial effect on the intestinal mucosa. Anticonvulsant and pain-relieving preparations are available as medication for irritable bowel syndrome, but only for acute therapy; the tried and tested hot-water bottle often helps.
Swelling agents for diarrhea (e.g. psyllium), roughage (e.g. bran) for constipation and defoamers (e.g. Lefax) for flatulence. Peppermint, chamomile, caraway and anise are the primary herbal helpers for irritable bowel syndrome. Finally, an attempt can be made to reduce the daily stress somewhat with the help of progressive muscle relaxation, hypnosis and psychotherapy in order to relieve the irritable bowel.
Follow-up care following an acute irritable bowel disease should take into account the various triggering or aggravating factors. These include, in particular, diet and avoiding stress. In the case of chronic irritable bowel syndrome, patients should avoid the individually triggering or symptom-aggravating factors.
Foods that can trigger or worsen the symptoms should be avoided. These include, for example, wheat-based products, dairy products containing lactose, foods with a high fructose content and foods with a high fat content. A favorable diet for people with irritable bowel syndrome includes grain products, for example based on spelt, oats or rice, lactose-free dairy products, fruit with a low fructose content and sweeteners with a low fructose content.
If fats are used in food preparation, vegetable oils should be used. A food or symptom diary can also help to structure the diet in such a way that the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are contained in the long term.
Patients should also have check-ups at regular intervals. These include, for example, preventive medical check-ups as part of colon cancer screening. For people over the age of 55, the costs for colonoscopies are largely covered by health insurance companies.
You can do that yourself
Irritable bowel is one of the clinical pictures that are particularly receptive to self-help in everyday life. The patient’s cooperation is not only possible here, but also expressly desired. Diet, exercise, reducing stress, and other factors are important for optimal management of irritable bowel syndrome.
When it comes to nutrition, the patient has to find out what is actually good for him. Of course, recommendations such as avoiding spicy, fatty or flatulent foods are an important first step. However, patients can find out what is actually tolerated in individual cases through targeted observation, such as keeping a food diary. This is the basis for the gradual change in diet with regard to the irritable bowel symptoms of those affected. A sufficient diet and avoiding alcohol and nicotine are often helpful in this context.
Exercise is an important factor in IBS. This in two ways. On the one hand, being active stimulates the natural intestinal activity efficiently and is almost always recommended as self-help in everyday life. Stress reduction is also an important factor when it comes to everyday life with irritable bowel syndrome. Because the intestine does not only react to food influences. Psychological components also play a role with regard to the acute condition. Therefore, irritable bowel therapy and coping with everyday life should always be designed as a holistic concept.