Do you feel the need of a bowel movement even after you’ve already had one? Do you often have abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea first thing in the morning or just after you finished your meal? If yes, then chances are that you might be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. In this form of digestive disorder, your intestines either squeeze too hard or not hard enough. At times, the undigested stomach contents rush through your system causing cramps and diarrhea, making you desperate to find a restroom. This is known as diarrhea dominant IBS. At other times, your sluggish intestines allow the food to stay in it for a much longer duration, leading to conditions such as constipation, bloating, stomach gurgling, gas, nausea or heartburn. This is known as constipation dominant IBS.
One should however keep in mind that irritable bowel syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion, which is a medical condition whose presence cannot be confidently established, even after examining the patient. Although there is no specific cure for IBS, certain treatment procedures such as dietary modifications, medication and psychological intervention help to relieve the symptoms. In order to make the treatment successful, patient education and a healthy doctor-patient relation is a prime necessity. Although IBS does not lead to further complications, its chronic nature increases a patient’s medical costs, forcing him/her to remain absent from work, eventually affecting the quality of life. IBS symptoms begin showing at the age of 20-30 years and is mostly found in women. Now, you may ask that what actually causes irritable bowel syndrome. Although the specific cause of IBS is yet to be detected, a number of hypotheses have been proposed. Read on to know what they actually are.
Causes Of IBS
- IBS is often said to be a result of abnormal gastrointestinal tract movements or change in the nervous system communication of the brain and the gastrointestinal tract.
- Neurochemical imbalance is said to be another cause of IBS. Nerves send neurotransmitter signals that enable communication between the brain and gut. Fluctuating bowel symptoms of diarrhea and constipation might result due to an imbalance in the two neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine. While increase in the level of serotonin results in diarrhea, constipation occurs as a result of increased release of norepinephrine.
- It is seen that the risk of developing IBS increases six-fold after an acute gastrointestinal infection.
- Although this is something which has still not been proven, food sensitivities and dietary allergies have been suggested to trigger IBS. The most common food categories said to cause IBS are dairy products and grains. Certain other foods such as coffee, alcohol, spices and raw fruits and vegetables can also cause the colon to malfunction.
- Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine is said to be another cause for developing IBS. This overgrowth is mainly due to decreased secretion of gastric juices, bile flow and pancreatic enzymes. This results in poor absorption of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. The undigested food in the small intestine as well the colon leads to fermentation and growth of unwanted bacteria.
- Feelings such as anxiety, anguish and depression can cause IBS. Corticotrophin releasing factor or CRF is a hormone released in the body during stress. It tends to increase the movement of descending colon and results in abdominal pain.
- Intake of analgesics like Acetaminophen may cause diarrhea pre-dominant IBS too. An imbalance in the neurotransmitter serotonin leads to this condition.
- IBS can also be the result of other illness. Continued existence of acute infectious diarrhea or gastroenteritis can lead to IBS. People who have a history of being infected with gastroenteritis are more prone to develop IBS, otherwise called post-infectious IBS.
- Hormonal changes also play a pivotal role in triggering the condition of IBS. Since women are more receptive to hormonal changes, they are more likely to be affected with IBS. It has been reported that the condition worsens during or around the time of menstrual periods.