Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that causes a variety of symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. The cause of the disorder is unknown, and the frequency, duration, and intensity of its symptoms can be manageable for some, but debilitating for others. At BASS Medical Group, our gastroenterologists and their staff are ready to help manage your IBS symptoms with a customized long-term treatment plan that works on relieving your symptoms and increasing your quality of life.

IBS Symptoms

IBS symptoms can vary greatly and they sometimes occur in patterns; people with the disorder often experience periods of time where symptoms intensify, and periods of time where they subside.

The most common signs of IBS are:
• Pain or cramping in your abdomen
• Diarrhea and/or constipation
• Bloating and/or gas

It is important to note that while it can cause pain and discomfort, IBS does not actually do any damage to your body and some people with the disorder have otherwise healthy digestive tracts. However, if you experience any of the above symptoms we encourage you to make an appointment with a BASS Medical Group specialist so they can assess what gastrointestinal problems you might be having.

IBS Causes and Triggers

The causes of IBS remain unknown, and this can make the disorder difficult to navigate. Currently, doctors and scientists agree that its symptoms could be the result of:
• Poor communication between the nerves of the digestive tract and the brain
• Abnormal contractions in the walls of your intestines
• Changes in the bacteria of your digestive tract
• Intestinal inflammation
• Severe infection

Regardless of the cause, those with IBS are more sensitive to anything that stimulates the bowels. Prolonged stress, mental health issues, food sensitivities, food intolerances, or hormone imbalances can trigger many people’s symptoms.

Several factors can lead to an increased risk of developing IBS, but you are more likely to get the disorder if you are female, under the age of 50, and have a family history of IBS.

IBS Diagnosis and Treatment

When you meet with one of our qualified gastroenterologists, they will review your medical history, perform a physical exam, and then ask you about your symptoms. There are no tests that directly detect IBS, so they need to rule out other possible explanations before they make a conclusion about your condition. The duration and frequency of your symptoms are two factors that your doctor will take into consideration, and they might use a set of diagnostic criteria to help them in their evaluation. They will be looking for which of your symptoms fit the criteria for IBS, and which of your symptoms could be indicative of a more serious medical issue.

Your gastroenterologist might order lab tests to examine your blood and stool, as well as imaging tests to look at your digestive tract. After other explanations have been ruled out, they can make an official diagnosis and recommendation. For treatment purposes, you might be assigned an IBS type: IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea, or IBS with mixed bowel habits. While not everyone fits into these categories, they can be a helpful when figuring out the best course of action for symptom management. Throughout every step of this process, our doctors and their staff will be there to patiently answer any questions that may arise.

As IBS is a chronic condition, your treatment plan will typically be focused on symptom relief. Patience is important, and trial and error may be necessary to find the most effective combination for you. Your doctor may suggest:

• A change in eating habits such as increasing fiber, avoiding gluten, or following a special diet. Diets such as the low FODMAP are often recommended to help identify symptom-triggering foods.
• A change in lifestyle including drinking more water, logging more sleep, exercising more, and decreasing overall stress.
• Taking medication to target individual symptoms, specifically concentrating on diarrhea, constipation, and pain. Our doctors will recommend the medications they feel are best for your specific symptoms and condition. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, these can range from over the counter medicines like laxatives or fiber supplements to IBS specific prescriptions.

Other treatment options may be available, and our specialists will suggest them if they are appropriate for you and your lifestyle.

Learn more about what our experienced gastroenterologists at BASS Medical Group can do for you by finding the location nearest you and calling to schedule a consult.