IBS Awareness Month: Is That Upset Stomach a Sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on April 21, 2013

IBS Awareness Month: Is That Upset Stomach a Sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Sometimes after you eat, you just don’t feel well— and there are a lot of reasons why that happens. From undercooked chicken to taking full advantage of that tub of “bottomless french fries,” it’s easy to blame indigestion on the food itself or your eating habits.  

But have you ever considered that an upset stomach might be a sign that your digestive system isn’t working right? Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of the digestive system that affects millions of people, and it’s important to get necessary care in order to keep your body healthy.

Not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), which occurs when your gastrointestinal inflammation is the result of diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, IBS occurs when the intestines simply don’t function properly in the large intestine. Unlike IBD, which causes inflammation and changes in bowel tissue or increase risk of colorectal cancer, IBS does not cause permanent colon damage.

Since neither a blood test or tissue sample can be used to identify the presence of IBS, doctors base their diagnosis upon symptoms and a physical exam, in which your doctor will check to see if there is any unusual tenderness in the abdomen. In some cases, blood tests and additional exams might be performed to rule out IBD or celiac disease. Your doctor also might recommend testing to see if your body has trouble digesting certain foods, such as dairy and sugar products.

If you have IBS, there are a few red flags you’ll want to share with your doctor. The main signs of IBS are bloating, gaseousness, mucus in the stool, and feeling as though you haven’t completely emptied your bowels. Sounds pleasant, right?

Although the causes of IBS are unknown and therefore unpreventable, certain foods, hormonal changes, and some antibiotics can trigger symptoms.

Thankfully, you can start minimizing uncomfortable side effects of IBS by following some simple at-home steps:  

·      Keep a food journal to discover which foods trigger your IBS, so you can create a new diet that minimizes symptoms of IBS

·       Get regular exercise to help reduce stress, which can help regulate your bowels

·       Take medication advised by your doctor to alleviate symptoms

·       Be aware of changes in your symptoms, such as the appearance of blood in the stool, increased pain, severe fever, and unexplained weight loss, which might be caused by a different health issue.

·       Avoid caffeine and foods that are high in fat

·       Eat smaller meals

·       Increase your fiber intake to relieve constipation

·       Quit smoking.

Crozer-Keystone offers a range of board-certified physicians who are trained in the latest technologies and procedures to comprehensively diagnose, manage and treat gastrointestinal and liver conditions. For more information or to make an appointment, visit. http://gi.crozerkeystone.org or call 1-877-CKHS-GI1 (254-7441).

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