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You’re on line at the grocery store when all of a sudden you experience that all-too-familiar abdominal pain ricocheting through your colon. The pain is enough to make you freeze in your tracks; you know there will be trouble if you don’t find a bathroom immediately. Have you ever experienced this, or a similar scenario? If so, you are familiar with the pain, discomfort and urgency associated with a condition known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic condition that affects the large intestine. In a patient with IBS, food travels either too quickly or too slowly through the intestines causing pain. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common condition that occurs more frequently in women than in men.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Quite a few symptoms are associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Just because you may have one or two of the symptoms listed below does not necessarily mean that you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Contact your doctor for referral to a gastroenterologist in order to receive a conclusive diagnosis. This list of common symptoms of IBS is not exhaustive. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing a persistent problem not mentioned here. Since everyone is unique, symptoms will vary from person to person.

The most common symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome include:

– Bloating and gas
– Constipation
– Diarrhea
– Alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
– Feeling like you still have to go to the bathroom even after you have just had a bowel movement
– Abdominal distress that may or may not go away after having a bowel movement

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

While the main cause remains unknown, there are a few triggers related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome that, if avoided, may potentially reduce the number of episodes experienced each day or week.

Food: Many people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome have reported that chocolate, milk and alcohol may lead to bouts of constipation or diarrhea. Additionally, others have found that the carbonation contained in soft drinks and certain fruits and vegetables may cause painful bouts of bloating.

Hormones: Since women develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome more frequently than men, it is suspected that hormones may play a role in this condition.

Stress: Most people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome have reported that they notice the symptoms become more severe during periods of stress. And while stress cannot be completely eradicated from a person’s life, there are a number of things you can do to keep stress at a minimum. Seeking counsel from a trained professional may be a good starting point to ridding yourself of stressors.

What are the Risk Factors Associated With Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

While everyone may experience some of the symptoms listed above at one time or another, there are certain characteristics that may put you at higher risk for developing this condition. These include:

Age – Most people experience their first symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome before they reach the ripe old age of 35.

Gender – Your risk of developing the condition increases if you are a woman.

History – If you have a person in your immediate family who has the condition, you may be predisposed to developing it as well.

How to Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Treatment will differ from person to person. It may take time before you notice an obvious trend in what triggers an onset of symptoms. Lifestyle modifications will likely have to be made once you are aware of those triggers. Until you know for sure what affects you the most, try the following modifications:

– Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages
– Limit the amount of fatty foods you at each day
– Avoid such gas-producing vegetables as beans, cabbage, raw broccoli and cauliflower
– Exercise regularly in order to keep your bowels moving properly

Your doctor may prescribe such medications as anticholinergics to treat cramping, diarrhea and constipation. If stress is believed to be one of the issues involved in your Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you may need an anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication. Clinical studies reveal that starting a regiment of probiotic supplements may help alleviate symptoms of pain and bloating while regulating bowel movements. Yogurt contains probiotics. Other studies have found that psyllium may relieve the pain associated with constipation or diarrhea.

In order to rule out any other possible conditions, it is important to see your physician if symptoms do not resolve themselves within a few weeks.

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