Nothing can hinder quality of life more than irregularity and pain in digestion and bowel movements. You’re not alone. Recent studies show that 10 to 15 percent of adults suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) a gastrointestinal tract disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits.
Not all those who suffer from IBS seek the help that they need. At the Center for Women’s Gastrointestinal Health, those with IBS symptoms make up most of the patient visits they have each day. Common symptoms of IBS include:
- Recurring abdominal pain at least three days per month.
- Change in bowel movements.
- Change in make-up of stool including blood loss and rectal bleeding.
It is important to see a gastroenterologist if you start experiencing these symptoms. IBS comes in many different forms:
- IBS with constipation.
- IBS with diarrhea.
- IBS with mix type, which includes symptoms from both.
Dr. Christy Dibble, director of Women & Infants’ Center for Women’s Gastrointestinal Health and assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, hopes to assure patients that chronic IBS does not have be debilitating to one’s quality of life, as long as they establish that crucial relationship with their GI provider. “IBS patients do not need a lot of work up or testing to assess treatment. We first develop a road map – establish medical history and detail their symptoms,” explained Dr. Dibble. “After the initial visit and diagnosis, patients should be seen regularly by a gastroenterologist to assess adequacy of symptom control, address new concerns if needed and provide education and support for this chronic disorder.”
Dr. Dibble and her colleagues at the Center for Women’s GI Health prefer to have patients make lifestyle modifications first before testing and drug treatment of symptoms. They rule out organic causes of disease and then establish a medical history and detail their symptoms. “Therapy can be very specific and completely different for every patient when it comes to treating IBS. Every case is very different depending on medical history and the severity of their symptoms,” said Dr. Dibble.
One buzz word that currently floats around IBS treatment is the “FODMAP Diet.” The Diet, Dr. Dibble explains, is low in fermentables, meaning a diet that excludes gas producing foods. Patients with IBS may benefit from exclusion of gas producing foods, a diet low in oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) and in select cases, lactose and gluten avoidance. It is considered extreme because of its restrictive nature. Avoiding lactose and dairy products is a less restrictive and easier start to a lifestyle change when suffering from IBS.
Of course, Dr. Dibble reminds patients that exercise gives way to great benefit across the board with health not just IBS symptom management.