So...what is IBS?

Hi Fam! Happy Monday! Did you have a wonderful weekend? We had a blast celebrating my little, Lexie’s wedding. She was absolutely stunning and we were so happy to share in their love and celebration.

But today, I wanted to get back into talking all things gut-health: specifically, what is IBS (seamless transition, I know)? I realized that in my previous posts, I just completely jumped into my own story with IBS, without setting the stage of what IBS actually IS. Bear with me - this post gets into the nitty gritty but in future posts, we’ll get into more fun recipes and tips! I’m going to include some food pics along the way so that this doesn’t turn into TOO dense of a post.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – What is it?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder within the digestive tract, and is characterized by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits.  Those who suffer from IBS can either be diagnosed with constipation-predominant IBS, diarrhea-predominant IBS (Source-1), or a mix of the two. Let’s get into that below.

IBS-C: IBS-C is irritable bowel syndrome with constipation-specific symptoms. Constipation is characterized by difficulty with stool evacuation, or difficult to pass stools. Constipation symptoms can also include delayed transit of stool through the colon, and infrequent bowel movements. Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Sometimes constipation can be chronic, meaning that infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stools persists for several weeks or longer (Source-2).

IBS-D: Diarrhea is characterized as loose, watery and possibly more-frequent bowel movements. In most cases, diarrhea lasts a couple of days. Those who suffer with IBS-D report having abdominal pain, sudden urges for bowel movements, loose stools, and abdominal pain and discomfort (Source-3).

Regardless of an IBS-C or IBS-D diagnosis, there are some common symptoms associated with IBS. These symptoms include (Source-4):

  • Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating that is typically relieved or partially relieved by passing a bowel movement

  • Excess gas

  • Diarrhea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation

  • Mucus in the stool

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What can be IBS triggers, you may wonder? Symptoms of IBS can be triggered by:

  • Food: More and more research is becoming available that shows that individualized diets for irritable bowel syndrome affect symptoms (Source-5). Indeed, certain diets can help IBS-sufferers, such as the low-FODMAP diet (Source-7).

  • Stress: Most people who suffer with IBS symptoms have worse symptoms during times of stress (Source-4).

  • Hormones: Interestingly, Women are twice as likely to have IBS, which might indicate that hormonal changes play a role. Many women find that signs and symptoms are worse during or around their menstrual periods (Source-4).

It is clear that IBS manifests through different symptoms in different individuals, but regardless, the symptoms can dramatically impact quality of life.

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Conventional/medical approach to IBS:

Frustratingly, there’s no definitive test that can diagnose a person with IBS. Your doctor is likely to start with a complete medical history, physical exam and tests to rule out other conditions. After other conditions have been ruled out, your doctor is likely to use one of these sets of diagnostic criteria for IBS (Source-4): 

“Rome criteria. These criteria include abdominal pain and discomfort lasting on average at least one day a week in the last three months, associated with at least two of these factors: Pain and discomfort are related to defecation, the frequency of defecation is altered, or stool consistency is altered.

Manning criteria. These criteria focus on pain relieved by passing stool and on having incomplete bowel movements, mucus in the stool and changes in stool consistency. The more symptoms you have, the greater the likelihood of IBS.

Type of IBS. For the purpose of treatment, IBS can be divided into three types, based on your symptoms: constipation-predominant, diarrhea-predominant or mixed.”

There are currently a handful of medications that are approved for the treatment of IBS symptoms, such as Alosetron, Eluxadoline, Rifaximin, among a few others. In combination with medication, some doctors also recommend working with a dietician on dietary modifications. Recently, the low-FODMAP diet is gaining more popularity but doctors do not always mention this option (Source-4).

SO, this is some of the medical knowledge behind IBS diagnosis, but did you notice how there’s not a huge focus on diet? For me - DIETARY modification have made the largest impact to my gut-health. I want to share with you my tips and tricks in future posts - let me know in the comments what you’d like me to discuss.

Do you suffer with IBS/IBS-like symptoms?

Xoxo,

Meg

Sources:

Source 1: Rawla, P, et al. “Updated Review of Current Pharmacological and Non-Pharmacological Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 Oct. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30290187.

Source 2: Mayo Clinic Staff. “Constipation.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 Jan. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253.

Source-3: Mayo Clinic Staff. “Diarrhea.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Oct. 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diarrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352241.

Source-4: Mayo Clinic Staff. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Mar. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016.