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Gastroenterology Blog

Understanding Triggers for IBS

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 @ 3:52 PM

IBS triggers

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) system, affecting the large intestine.  It is estimated that up to 55 million Americans, mostly women, are living with IBS.  Because IBS is a functional GI disorder, it may cause several different symptoms which are bothersome and uncomfortable.  However, it will not result in damage to the GI tract and should not cause any “alarm” symptoms such as rectal bleeding, weight loss, or anemia.  If these symptoms are present, it is important to first rule out any organic causes.

For most patients, the symptoms of IBS include abdominal cramping and pain, accompanied with diarrhea, constipation, or both at different times.  Other symptoms such as bloating, mucous in stool, or feeling that a bowel movement is incomplete may occur as well.

When an individual has suffered from these symptoms for at least 3 months at a rate of 3 times per month or more, testing should be done to rule out other potential causes such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  If no other disease or injury can be found as a source of the GI symptoms, IBS may be diagnosed, falling into one of four categories that may cause similar symptoms:

  1. IBS-D (IBS with diarrhea) – Loose stools at least 25% of the time and hard stools no more than 25% of the time
  2. IBS-C (IBS with constipation)- Hard stools at least 25% of the time and loose stools no more than 25% of the time
  3. IBS-M (Mixed IBS) – Loose stools at least 25% of the time and hard stools at least 25% of the time
  4. IBS-U (Unsubtyped IBS) – Loose stools less than 25% of the time and hard stools less than 25% of the time

With each of these categories and each individual patient, triggers for IBS symptoms are often identified.  Identifying these triggers is a critical component in finding relief and avoiding future IBS flare-ups.  Among the most commonly seen IBS triggers are:

  • Diet Triggers – For many, refined foods such as breads, cookies and chips can trigger IBS symptoms.  For others it may occur following the intake of lots of fiber, dairy products, or alcohol. 
  • Stress – There can be an abundance of stressors in day-to-day life.  For an IBS patient, work, financial or relationship troubles, and a wide array of other stressful situations can trigger their IBS symptoms. 
  • Drugs – There are a number of drugs which may serve as triggers for IBS.  Antibiotics and antidepressants may be necessary medications for some, but they can also have undesirable side effects.  Additionally, medicines containing sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, such as cough syrups may be triggers as well.

For those who suffer from IBS, care should be taken to avoid triggers which can result in uncomfortable symptoms.  Changes in diet or medication may offer some relief.  Lifestyle changes such as exercise can also be helpful.  In any case, the advice of a GI specialist should be sought and a diagnosis confirmed before attempting to treat symptoms on your own.  Once IBS has been identified as the source of your discomfort, your physician can help identify triggers and recommend treatment options.

If you have been suffering from IBS symptoms such as diarrhea and constipation for 3 months or more at a rate of at least 3 times per month, it may be time to seek the medical attention of a gastroenterologist.  The physicians at Gastroenterology Associates in Baton Rouge, Livingston, and Zachary, are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of IBS and can help you find relief.  To schedule an appointment, click here, or call our office directly at (225) 927-1190.

ibs causes

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 @ 10:47 AM

IBS doctorIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that occurs in the large intestine, colon, or small intestine.  IBS is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract which means that changes in how the GI tract works causes IBS problems.  A functional disorder of the GI tract means that the intestines may appear normal during a test but it’s function/how it works is altered.

IBS symptoms are experienced by approximately 1 in 6 people in the US and affecting between 24 and 55 million people annually.  Also, it is estimated that 20-40% of all visits to gastroenterologists are due to the symptoms of IBS.

IBS is a set of symptoms that occur together and is not a disease.  The most common symptoms of IBS are:

  • abdominal pain or discomfort
  • cramping
  • diarrhea – frequent and loose stools
  • constipation - infrequent stools that can be dry and/or hard
  • alternating between diarrhea and constipation
  • bloating
  • gas
  • mucus in the stool
  • feeling as if your bowel movement isn’t finished
  • upper stomach area discomfort or feeling uncomfortably full or nauseous after eating a normal size meal

In years past, the names associated with these symptoms are colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, nervous colon, and spastic bowel.  However, better understanding of the IBS patient’s physical and mental impacts on their GI health led to a change in the name of the disorder to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 

IBS is diagnosed after a person experiences abdominal pain or discomfort a minimum of three times per month for the past 3 months, where no other disease or injury can explain the pain. The pain or discomfort of IBS may take place with a shift in consistency or frequency of stools and relief may be experienced with bowel movement.

Most IBS sufferers figure out methods of controlling their symptoms and the condition, and only a very small number of people with IBS endure disabling symptoms.  Fortunately, IBS doesn’t cause inflammation or changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer, unlike more-serious Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.  Lifestyle changes, diet modifications, and stress reduction are typically the best methods of managing the symptoms of IBS.

Bowel muscles contract during the course of the day and move the feces in the intestine with each contraction.  In people with IBS, these contractions can be triggered by certain stimuli.  Some of those stimuli are explored further in the whitepaper below.

ibs causes

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Irritable Bowel Syndrome