- What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the name people use today for a condition that was once called — among other things — colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, nervous colon, spastic bowel, and functional bowel disorder. IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder characterized by recurring abdominal pain, discomfort, and changes in bowel habits. Common symptoms of IBS include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and a combination of both. While the exact cause of IBS is not fully understood, it is believed to involve a combination of factors such as abnormal intestinal contractions, hypersensitivity of the gut, and disturbances in the gut-brain axis. It is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Treatment for IBS
IBS is a very common disorder, but conventional 'physical' treatments often do not work very well and patients can feel that their symptoms are being ignored, downplayed or misunderstood. Our goal with treatment is to relieve symptoms. Lifestyle changes can be helpful in some cases of IBS. For example, regular exercise and improved sleep habits may reduce anxiety and help relieve bowel symptoms. However, patients with IBS are more likely to suffer from depression and have 'abnormal' behavior patterns including anxiety and somatization (conversion of an emotional, mental, or psychosocial problem to a physical complaint).
This has led to the idea that IBS has a psychological, as well as a biological, basis — and a growing body of evidence supports the use of antidepressants for IBS/IBD. In addition to exploring medications, 'talking therapy' (known as cognitive behavioral therapy) can be as effective as antidepressant treatments — and its benefits last longer.
Hypnotherapy has also been reported to be an effective intervention for IBS in small trials, although a recent review of hypnotherapy trials found insufficient evidence to recommend its widespread use and suggested that this treatment option should be restricted to specialist centers dealing with more severe cases of the syndrome.
Other possible treatments may include:
Antidiarrheal medications for those whose main symptom is diarrhea
Low-dose antidepressants to help relieve intestinal pain
Medications to stimulate bowel movements for those with constipation
With many options for treatment, we encourage you to meet with one of our providers to discuss your IBS. We provide guidance regarding nutrition, medication, and psychological treatment.