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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the intestines. It causes one of three patterns of symptoms:

  • Chronic abdominal pain and constipation (spastic colitis)

  • Recurring episodes of diarrhea, with or without pain

  • Alternating diarrhea and constipation

The cause of IBS is not known. Symptoms are usually mild and can be controlled by learning to manage stress and making changes in your diet and lifestyle. These include:

  • Constipation may be avoided by increasing fiber in your diet. Fiber supplements, psyllium (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel) with extra fluids are also helpful.

  • Diarrhea can be treated with careful use of over-the-counter medicines such as loperamide (Imodium).

  • Bloating or passing excess gas may be controlled by limiting your intake of carbonated beverages, salads, raw fruits and vegetables, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.

  • Stress often benefits from counseling as well as self-help measures such as exercise, yoga, and meditation.

More severe symptoms may require prescription medicine.

  • Depression can be a component of this illness and antidepressant medicine may be prescribed. This may actually help with diarrhea, constipation, cramping as well as symptoms of depression.

  • Intestinal cramping may benefit from anticholinergic medicine.

Home Care:

  1. Look for factors that seem to worsen your symptoms such as stress and emotions, rapid or irregular eating habits, overuse of laxatives or enemas. Certain foods such as fatty foods, fried foods, caffeine, and dairy products may worsen your symptoms. Keep a food log to figure out what you are sensitive to.

  2. If you have constipation, putting more fiber into your diet will help. Foods high in fiber include fresh fruits and peelings you can eat, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, whole grain cereals, nuts, dried beans and peas. Bran is also a very good source of fiber.

  3. If severe stress is a factor in your life and self help methods are not working, talk to your doctor about ways to manage stress.

Follow Up with your doctor or as directed by our staff if you do not begin to improve over the next 2-3 days.

Get Prompt Medical Attention if any of the following occur:

  • Increase in abdominal pain

  • Constant abdominal pain that moves to the right-lower abdomen

  • Persistent vomiting (can't keep liquids down)

  • Excessive diarrhea

  • Blood in your stool (red or black color) or mucus in your stool

  • Feeling very weak or dizzy, fainting or extreme thirst

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider


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