Frustrated with intermittent abdominal pains accompanied with irregular bowel movements but the internal examination of your gut reveals no damage, it could not be an abnormality with the structure. Rather, the gut may not be able to function properly. This condition is known as ‘irritable bowel syndrome.’
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gut disorder affecting up to 1 in 5 people at some stage in their life and is most often found in women and people younger than 45 years of age. No exact cause has yet been determined but over activity of the gut is considered as the culprit. Stress, emotional traumas, intolerance to certain foods like spicy foods, caffeine or alcohol, mental health disorders like depression, anxiety or panic disorders and bacterial infections are commonly known triggers.
Abdominal pain or discomfort which patients cite as cramping is the most frequently reported symptom of irritable bowel syndrome. Pain is generally associated with bowel movements that occur more or less often and stool that appears less solid and more watery, or harder and more lumpy than usual. Patient may also pass mucus (a clear liquid) along with stool and may also complain of bloating, loss of appetite, tiredness and nausea. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may appear after eating of meals and they tend to come and go. If you are experiencing these symptoms at least three times in a month, it is better to meet a doctor. There are hardly any tests that can diagnose irritable bowel syndrome so doctors will also make their diagnosis based on the understanding of symptoms.
Don’t be bogged down by the troublesome symptoms. There are ways to manage the irritable bowel syndrome like below:
- Find out what triggers the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in you and try to avoid them.
- Seek support from your family and friends. You may sometimes get late for events, so it’s better to keep them aware in advance.
- Increase your dietary intake of soluble fibres which includes oats, ispaghula (psyllium), fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Take food containing probiotics like curd and cheese
- Eat slowly and avoid missing meals or leaving longer gaps between meals
- Whenever you go out, find the whereabouts of restrooms so you don’t have to rush at the last minute
- Restrict the amount of tea and coffee to 2-3 cups a day
- Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water
- Stay calm and manage stress with relaxation techniques
- Check with your doctor if you can take hot water fomentation to relieve abdominal pain