At least 10% of the German population suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disease that – as the name suggests – affects the intestines. At the same time, the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary from person to person. However, they are often characterized by abdominal pain and cramps, as well as bloating, diarrhea or constipation. It is believed that the symptoms are dependent on certain foods, stress or hormonal changes, although the exact cause of IBS is not one hundred percent known.
Irritable bowel symptoms
The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known, but it is believed that a combination of factors contribute to overstimulating the bowel. Irritable bowel syndrome is often characterized by chronic abdominal pain, bloating, changes in bowel movements or other symptoms affecting the abdominal or intestinal region. This can be attributed to abnormal bowel movements, hypersensitivity to pain in the bowel, and altered communication between the brain and the bowel (bowel-brain axis). The pain can become so severe that everyday life is severely limited. Diagnosis with possible causes can help reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, as well as associated pain and other unpleasant effects.
How can irritable bowel syndrome be diagnosed?
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a condition that can be accurately diagnosed. A visit to a physician will usually amount to making a more accurate diagnosis based on exclusion procedures. A number of tests are performed to rule out other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease or colorectal cancer. Investigations consist of a thorough history and physical examination, which may include various diagnostic tests such as blood tests, stool tests, imaging (e.g., a colonoscopy), or other specific tests.
Only after ruling out possible diseases can the diagnosis of “irritable bowel syndrome” be made. There are no laboratory or imaging tests to definitively detect irritable bowel syndrome. Diagnosis is based on symptoms and exclusion of other conditions and requires individualized treatment, which may vary from person to person and may depend on trying different treatments to find the ideal one.
The treatment of irritable bowel
Once a diagnosis has been established, treatment of irritable bowel syndrome can take place. This requires various measures that can, but do not have to, help those affected. There is no exact medicine for irritable bowel syndrome, but in the meantime there are various measures that can reduce or even eliminate the symptoms.
Dietary changes for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome
A change in diet can often work wonders. First of all, it is necessary to identify so-called “trigger foods” that can lead to irritation of the intestines. Certain food intolerances as well as allergies can lead to intestinal irritation and cause abdominal pain and other symptoms. There are various diets, based on which it is possible to determine which foods can be harmful. People are often affected by lactose or gluten intolerance, so avoiding foods with these ingredients can often help. A generally low-fiber diet can also help protect the intestinal tract.
Stress prevention against irritable bowel syndrome
As is so often the case, stress and restlessness can be the cause of chronic illness. Those who suffer from pain and upset in the abdominal and intestinal area should ensure relaxation and tranquility in their daily lives. Relaxation sessions, breathing exercises, yoga or meditation can help reduce stress and increase well-being. A relaxed body is less prone to pain and tension, so IBS symptoms can also be reduced or eliminated.
Lifestyle and self-care to reduce intestinal discomfort.
In general, a balanced lifestyle as well as self-interested benefits can increase the well-being of the body and the psyche, so that diseases do not arise in the first place or – if already existing – can be reduced. A healthy lifestyle includes physical activities that, in the best case, are performed regularly. Also sufficient sleep, trips to nature, massages, sauna, and routine activities can increase the quality of life and help to have a healthy body.