Do you have undiagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Did you know that Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS affects 20% of people in the UAE?

Young women are three times more likely to have IBS than men. IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects 15% of people worldwide and often goes undiagnosed.

The most common cause of IBS is stress-related gastrointestinal complaints. Patients present with symptoms of anxiety or nervousness and have a history of diarrhea aggravated by stress, bloating and abdominal pain. It is relieved by having a bowel movement. Patients typically have psychosocial stressors and normal physical findings and test results. IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion. Because it is so common, it is the most likely diagnosis if the patient has no physical findings, especially in young adults.


How can I get tested?

Certain tests that are especially relevant to the evaluation of IBS symptoms may include a complete blood test to search for tissue damage and intestinal swelling. A stool test is also commonly done to check for bacterial infections. A physical exam is always included in the initial testing for IBS.


How can we prevent it?

While diagnostic testing is useful in evaluating certain gastrointestinal problems. Treatment is often initiated using the simpler approach in taking small meals at regular intervals, increasing fiber consumption, managing stress by making changes in your diet and lifestyle, avoiding foods (like dairy products, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables), drinking plenty of fluids, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

Also in advanced cases keeping a personal daily diary, to help find factors that worsen or bring on symptoms is important to have. Stress management, gut-directed hypnosis, and relaxation techniques often help to combat symptoms. Medications are often useful in severe cases of IBS, like the use of laxatives, bulking agents, anti-diarrheal agents, and anti-anxiety medication to help with emotional stress.

Moreover, dietary and life-style changes may help to reduce bloating and other symptoms. These tips, combined with the effectiveness of various agents can bring a great amount of relief to IBS patients. Patients who have not responded to lifestyle changes and careful use of medications should consider being evaluated by a physician who specializes in stress-related gastrointestinal disorders.

Hopefully, some patients have some kind of physical activity routine in place. If not, and they have IBS, think about ways to be more active. One doesn’t have to be a runner, nor do they have to join a gym. Maybe walking or yoga sounds more appealing. The point is to find something that you enjoy and that doesn’t aggravate your symptoms. Finding ways to reduce or cope with stress is a key part of IBS management. We all have stress and to expect it to go away is unrealistic. But if you can better handle it, you’ll feel more relaxed and in control.

Dr Zaib discusses about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Dr Zaib Shaikh

General Practitioner

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