Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal condition that affects the colon, primarily causing stomach pain and discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Almost 50 million people in the United States have IBS, and while it is typically not a life-threatening condition, IBS is incurable. The good news is, though, that there are many strategies and treatment options to manage the symptoms of IBS as well as prevent flare-ups.
Lifestyle modifications are as imperative to IBS treatment as medications are for relief. In most cases, people with IBS manage to keep their symptoms under control by eliminating foods and factors that trigger flare-ups and severe symptoms such as lactose, gluten, and stress.
IBS Medications in Use
Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal drugs: Drugs like Imodium can relieve diarrhea in mild-to-moderate cases of IBS. Bile acid binders and cholestyramine can also alleviate diarrhea but may cause bloating.
Fiber: If your primary IBS symptom is constipation, increasing your fiber intake through your diet or by taking supplements that contain psyllium or methylcellulose can also provide relief. If you also experience bloating and gas, opt for supplements instead of dietary fiber. If you suffer from diarrhea, cramps, and bloating, increasing your fiber intake without consulting your doctor may worsen your symptoms.
Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be used if you show symptoms of IBS and also experience depression. Antidepressants can regulate the function of the GI tract and lessen IBS symptoms.
Alosetron: Alosetron is a newer medication that is reserved for severe IBS cases that primarily cause diarrhea in women. Alosetron relaxes the colon and regulates lower bowel movements.
Rifaximin: Recently approved by FDA, Rifaximin is an antibiotic that reduces gut bacteria to relieve IBS-related diarrhea and bloating.
Eluxadoline: Eluxadoline is also a new medication that regulates muscle spasms in the stomach and also controls bowel contractions to eliminate diarrhea. Those without a gallbladder mustn’t take eluxadoline.
Linaclotide: Linaclotide improves bowel movements to fight constipation while lessening pain sensitivity in the gastrointestinal tract.
What You Can Do to Prevent Severe IBS Symptoms and Flare-Ups
Avoid too much stress
Stress does not directly cause IBS but is a prominent IBS trigger. Stress can incite and worsen stomach cramps and bloating. Stress management is an essential part of IBS management.
Meditation, regular, exercise, as well as breathing exercises, are excellent strategies to de-stress. Biofeedback is also a therapy option that can help you reduce stress which teaches you how to relieve muscle tension and control your body’s responses to stress.
Know your triggers
While every individual with IBS has different triggers, reports and studies show that there are some culprits that cause flare-ups and severe IBS symptoms in almost everyone due to their composition.
Certain vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower; some legumes like beans; candies and chocolate, and artificial sweeteners often trigger or worsen IBS. It is also important to know whether you have a food allergy or intolerance such as lactose or gluten to eliminate symptoms.
Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake
Keeping hydrated and drinking lots of water is vital in the lives of those with irritable bowel syndrome. However, you should opt for beverages that will not overstimulate your intestinal system and consequently trigger flare-ups. Alcohol is a stimulant and can cause IBS symptoms. Caffeinated beverages and sodas with lots of sugar can also trigger IBS flare-ups.
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