What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
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UNDERSTANDING irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects the functioning of the large intestine (colon). It is a chronic condition characterized by a combination of abdominal pain, discomfort, and changes in bowel habits. IBS is considered a functional disorder, meaning there is no structural or physical damage to the digestive tract.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but several factors may contribute to its development, including:
- Abnormal Muscle Contractions: The muscles in the walls of the intestines may contract more forcefully or more slowly, leading to changes in bowel movements.
- Nervous System Abnormalities: Disruptions in the communication between the brain and the intestines can cause increased sensitivity to pain or changes in how the intestines respond to stimuli.
- Gut-Brain Axis: The gut and brain have a bidirectional relationship, and disturbances in this interaction can contribute to IBS symptoms.
- Inflammation: Low-grade inflammation in the intestines may play a role in some cases of IBS.
Symtpoms of irritable bowel syndrome
If you are experiencing IBS, you may encounter one or more of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal Pain and Cramping: This is the most common symptom of IBS. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be relieved by bowel movements.
- Changes in Bowel Habits: IBS can cause diarrhea, constipation, or alternating bouts of both. Stool consistency may also vary, ranging from loose and watery to hard and pellet-like.
- Bloating and Excessive Gas: Many individuals with IBS experience bloating, which is often accompanied by increased gas production and discomfort.
- Urgency to Defecate: IBS can cause a sudden and intense urge to have a bowel movement, which may be difficult to control.
- Mucus in Stool: Some individuals with IBS may notice the presence of mucus in their stool.