Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects how food and waste is processed by the bowel. It can impact on gut motility and cause sufferers to either experience frequent bouts of diarrhoea or constipation alongside several other troublesome symptoms, such as excessive gas, bloating, nausea, weight loss, lethargy and stomach cramps. Although there's no cure for IBS at the moment, there are several treatment options available. It's not uncommon for those with IBS to have to try a few different treatments before they find a treatment approach that improves their symptoms consistently, so it's useful to be aware of the treatments that are available. Read on to learn about the variety of treatment options currently on offer to IBS patients.
There are a number of drugs that are commonly prescribed to ease symptoms of IBS, and these include laxatives to relieve constipation and anti-diarrhoeal medication, such as loperamide, to slow down the transit of food through your intestines. Anticholinergic medications are also used by IBS patients. These drugs can bring relief from cramping and bowel spasms and can reduce episodes of diarrhoea. You may also be prescribed drugs that relax the muscles of the colon and slow down the movement of waste through your bowel. If you experience regular episodes of constipation, you may benefit from medication that increases the volume of fluid secreted into your small intestine, which can loosen compacted stool and speed up the transit of food through your digestive tract.
You may benefit from a referral to a dietician who has a special interest in IBS. Some patients find their symptoms improve when they stop eating gluten and avoid gas-producing foods, such as broccoli, cabbage and carbonated drinks. Your dietician may advise you to do a food elimination diary, which involves cutting out certain foods that can be hard to digest or may cause your symptoms to flare, such as dairy and refined carbohydrates, and noting any improvement in your symptoms. Cutting out food groups is best done under the supervision of a dietician to ensure you are still getting all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
Some patients note an improvement in their symptoms when they use alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, counselling and massage, to reduce stress and help them relax. Stress can be a trigger for some IBS sufferers, so if you notice your symptoms worsen when you feel stressed, you may find alternative therapies useful for building coping skills during stressful periods.
If you'd like more information on IBS treatment options, speak to your doctor.