Irritable bowel syndrome is classified as “benign,” that means it will not kill you, or do you permanent harm, but that does not make it easy to live with. Imagine having a condition which may cause a sudden and uncontrollable attack of diarrhea as soon as you start to eat a meal – at your own or someone else’s home. It is difficult to enjoy any kind of social life while suffering from something with the potential to generate square acres of embarrassment.

IBS interferes with the normal functioning of the colon or large intestine. Too little enough water may be absorbed in the colon or the muscles may not function correctly to move to move food along. The cause of the disorder is not known. It may be that some people have a more sensitive colon than others. It is thought that the syndrome may be caused by or made worse by several factors, including the following:

Excess gas
Some medications
Some foods and large meals

It is a common problem and it affects 5 out of every 1,000 people. Women are affected three times as frequently as men.

There are two basic types of IBS:

Spastic colon type (constipation predominant bowel syndrome)
Symptoms are triggered by eating
Pain in the colon
May be a dull, constant ache or come in bouts like a colic
A bowel motion may relieve the pain
Periodic constipation or diarrhea
Excessive production of mucus in the bowel
Proctalgia fugax (pain in the rectum, often severe enough to disturb sleep)
Painless diarrhea (diarrhea predominant bowel syndrome)
An urgent diarrhea which occurs during or right after a meal

Other symptoms may include:

Feeling of bloating
Excessive gas buildup
Abdominal swelling
Depression or anxiety
Feeling of tiredness
Difficulty concentrating

If you are having these symptoms, you should see your physician. He or she will want to find out whether this is IBS or something else.

IBS shares some of its symptoms with other diseases, some of which are very serious, including:

Lactose intolerance
Duodenal ulcer
Some parasitic diseases
Colon polyps and tumors
Ovarian cysts
Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)
Malabsorption syndrome
Laxative abuse

In order to diagnose the condition, your physician will perform several tests. These include analysis of a stool sample, some lab tests and an examination of your rectum and colon.

How to deal with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
There is treatment available for IBS. Your physician will decide which the right treatment options for you are, but they will include:

A program of stress management and reduction
Regular physical activity
Medications, such as:
Anticholinergics and antispasmodics will help to control spasms of the colon muscles

Anti-diarrheal medication may be needed occasionally
Laxatives may be needed occasionally

In the matter of diet, you should add fiber, but apart from this you will not be asked to follow a restricted diet, although you may want to restrict certain foods, one at a time, in an effort to see whether their absence results in an improvement of symptoms or fewer acute outbreaks.

These foods include:

Foods and beverages containing caffeine


Milk and milk products

You should determine whether you are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk

Fruits including

Citrus fruits
Grapes and raisins
Berry fruit

Wheat, rye, barley, oats or any other grain containing gluten

Any food or drink containing


Other general recommendations include:

Get adequate sleep
Avoid stressful situations as you are able
Avoid foods that you know cause you to have a gas buildup
Stop chewing gum
Eat smaller meals more frequently
Don’t eat quickly
Avoid carbonated drinks

Additionally, supplements that may help include:

Pro-biotic drinks such as Actimel
Peppermint oil to ease flatulence and cramps

Sometimes, taking a stool bulking supplement, such as psyllium, helps greatly. But in all cases, treatment needs to be tailored to the individual patient. Above all, your physician should assure you that irritable bowel syndrome is “not all in your head” and that it is not harmful and will not cause any permanent injury to your colon.