Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome A short car ride home or sitting in the middle of a class can be an uncomfortable and painful experience for someone with irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the large intestine (colon) that interferes with the normal functions of the bowel (NIH, 2003, para.1). Symptoms may vary from person to person, but usually characterized by diarrhea, bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain. According to the National Institutes of Health, 1 in 5 Americans have IBS and women around the age of 20 are more prone to it, making it one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. To diagnose IBS, make an appointment with your doctor to have a medical test done such as a physical exam, blood tests, x-ray of the bowel, or endoscopy (AGA, 2005, para.4). The physical symptoms of IBS are that you must have had abdominal pain or discomfort for at least 12 weeks out of the previous 12 months, although they do not have to consecutive. Also, if your abdominal pain or discomfort is relieved by having a bowel movement, then you may have symptoms of IBS (NIH, para.4). Unfortunately there is no cure for IBS, but there are a wide variety of options to treat the symptoms such as medications, stress management, and diet changes. Antidepressants may also relieve some symptoms of IBS. In people with IBS, stress and emotions can strongly affect the colon. As college students we deal with stress every day, and in order to keep stress from causing serious physical harm, you must know how to deal with it. If you are feeling mentally or emotionally tense, angry or overwhelmed this can trigger colon spasms in people with IBS. These strong muscle contractions can result from mental stress because the nerves that control the normal rhythmic contractions of the colon are connected to the brain (AGA, para.3). Some suggestions for stress reduction are to get an adequate amount of sleep, exercise regularly to reduce tension, explore the benefits of meditation and yoga, and eat a well balanced diet. The way you eat can also affect the symptoms of IBS. As evidenced in research, dietary fiber may lessen certain IBS symptoms such as constipation. Diets high in fiber consist of whole grain breads and cereals, beans, fruits, and vegetables (Alice, 2003, para.2). Also drinking six to eight glasses of water is important, but drinking sodas and carbonated drinks can result in an increase in gas and discomfort.

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