Irritable bowel syndrome, also referred to as IBS, causes your intestines to contract slower or faster than normal. Due to the difference in the way your bowels constrict, this can cause your large intestine to create gas, pain, cramping and sudden bouts of diarrhea or constipation. Your symptoms may be more severe at certain times, depending upon diet and other lifestyle factors.
There are a variety of symptoms that you may experience with IBS such as cramping pain in your lower abdomen, bloating and gas. The cramping sensation, along with bloating and intestinal gas, can cause lower back pain if the gas and cramping are severe enough. You may also experience pain after meals or while trying to have a bowel movement. Other symptoms include diarrhea and constipation, or bouts of both, mucus in your stool and feeling as if you aren't completely finished emptying your bowels even after nothing else will come out. You may also feel an immediate need to go to the bathroom as soon as you wake up or during or after a meal.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but more than half of IBS sufferers also have psychological problems such as depression and anxiety, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Diet also plays a crucial role in IBS. Certain foods, such as dairy products, may make it more difficult to have a bowel movement, while others, such as spicy foods or foods that contain a great amount of sugar, may cause diarrhea. Certain foods such as lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, baked beans, hard candy and carbonated drinks can contribute to symptoms associated with IBS such as gas and bloating.
IBS has no cure, but there are ways to manage your symptoms. Fiber supplements or laxatives are sometimes recommended by physicians to help relieve constipation, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. On the same note, your doctor may recommend medications to decrease diarrhea and antispasmodics to help control muscle spasms of the colon and reduce abdominal pain.
Changing your diet can help you avoid or reduce some of the symptoms that you experience. Include more fibrous foods to help keep your bowel movements regular and eliminate known foods that cause diarrhea. Regular exercise and yoga can help in addition to getting an adequate amount of rest. Avoid stressful situations and take time to relax to help keep your muscles from tensing up.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Steven D. Ehrlich, N.M.D.; December 2009
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Sept. 2007
- MayoClinic.com: Bloating, Belching and Intestinal Gas: How to Avoid Them; Mayo Clinic Staff; April 2011