Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects 10-15% of the American population.1 IBS may be uncomfortable to talk about, but people everywhere are experiencing it, whether it may be mild or severe symptoms. Addressing these bodily functions could make life much easier.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic syndrome that affects the large intestine. The exact cause of this is unknown but it is believed to be caused by stress, poor diet, change in gut microbiome, abnormalities in the nervous system or irregular muscle contractions in the intestine. Symptoms of IBS can include abdominal pain and cramping, changes in bowel movements or changes in frequency of bowel movements. Two of the most common kinds of irritable bowel syndrome are Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis.2
Chron’s Disease is a form of IBS that can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the intestine. This inflammation can penetrate the deep layers of the bowel which, if becomes a chronic issue, can lead to life threatening conditions. There is no known cause of Chron’s.
Signs and symptoms: Chron’s disease usually appears gradually but can also appear abruptly. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms are abdominal pain, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, or blood in the stool. Other symptoms include inflammation of the eyes, mouth, liver or bile ducts, delayed growth in adolescents and kidney stones.
Diagnosis: There is no one test to diagnose Chron’s disease. It is diagnosed by a physician after other possible causes are ruled out. Diagnostic testing includes a colonoscopy, MRI or stool sample.
Treatment: There is no one treatment for Chron’s disease. Different medications and nutrition therapies may be tried with the goal of reducing inflammation and limiting complications. There are two main treatment approaches:
- Medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, immunes system suppressors, anti-diarrheal agents and pain relievers
- Nutritional approaches may also be taken. A low residual diet, which is composed of easily digestible foods, is recommended. A low-fiber diet may be prescribed if bowel movements are frequent. Because fruits and vegetables are a high source of fiber, these may not be advised. Dairy products are suggested to be avoided since they cause bloating and diarrhea. Because the nutrients from many of these foods is limited, nutritional supplements are recommended.4
Ulcerative Colitis (UI) causes inflammation and ulcers in the colon and rectum. Symptoms for UI show up slowly, rather than suddenly. There is no known cure, but with correct treatment, it can be well monitored.
Signs and symptoms: UI is most commonly found before the age of 30. It is seen in all races and ethnicities, but more commonly seen in Jewish decent. If someone in your immediate family has UI, you are also at higher risk. Symptoms for UI are the same as IBS, along with rectal bleeding, diarrhea with blood and fever.
Diagnosis: An endoscopic procedure to analyze colon tissue can diagnose UI. Blood tests and stool samples may also be done.
Treatment: Like Chron’s, drug treatment is often prescribed, such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and immune system depressors. Surgery is more common with UI, which removes the entire colon. Paired with medication, lifestyle alterations such as the following are also recommended:
1. Stress: A flare up of symptoms can occur with increased stress. Managing your stress is advised. See one of our previous blog to help reduce stress.
2. Nutrition: Although nutrition therapy is not as common with UI as Chron’s disease, the following recommendations can help ease symptoms:
- Limit dairy products
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat smaller meals.
- Talk to a dietitian.3
If you find yourself with any of these symptoms or have been diagnosed with IBS, contact our dietitian for help with creating a diet to ease your symptoms!
Starting from when she was a little girl, Hillary’s passion has always been in living a healthy way of life through movement and eating right. She played many sports when growing up but ended up sticking with volleyball and softball through college at Concordia College in Moorhead. While at Concordia, she earned a double major in exercise science and nutrition, graduating in 2015. After moving to the cities from my long-time home in the Fargo area, she was not quite sure what her passion was until she started working as a personal trainer. She learned from brilliant personal trainers and physical therapists, which led to her discovery of corrective exercise being her passion. She has decided to finish up the classes needed to apply for physical therapy school, which she plans on doing soon! She is excited to be at Live Your Life Physical Therapy to learn as much as she can from Dr. Norman and all the physical therapist on staff!
1 “Fact About IBS.” About IBS, www.aboutibs.org/facts-about-ibs.html#:~:text=IBS%20affects%20people%20of%20all,older%20adults%20suffer%20as%20well.
2“Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Oct. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016.
3 “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Oct. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016#:~:text=Irritable%20bowel%20syndrome%20(IBS)%20is,need%20to%20manage%20long%20term.
4 “Ulcerative Colitis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 Feb. 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ulcerative-colitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353331.