Alvaro R. Bada, M.D.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

If you experience lower abdominal pain relieved by moving your bowels or if you
experience changes in the frequency and consistency of bowel movements, it may be
a sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Signs of IBS can often show up shortly after a meal. In some cases, constipation can
alternate with diarrhea. Most people experience one or more of these symptoms from
time to time. But if you suffer from them frequently over a period of time, consult with
your physician.

A little information can go a long way in preventing difficulties. The digestive process
begins in your mouth. Your teeth break up the food into small pieces and your saliva
mixes with the food, allowing it to pass through the esophagus into the stomach.
Using muscular contractions, the esophagus sends food from the mouth to the
stomach. Like a giant processing center, the stomach churns the food into smaller
pieces, preparing it to travel on the lower part of the digestive tract. After leaving the
stomach, the food passes into the small intestine, where the food's nutrients are
further broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. By the time food passes
through all 21 feet of the small intestine and reaches the colon, only water and waste
products remain.

Now the colon begins the process of removing waste from the body. Under normal
conditions, the colon is very efficient at absorbing excess water from the waste.
However, if your colon's ability to remove waste efficiently is affected, then symptoms
of IBS can occur. If transit through the colon is sped, your waste doesn't have time to
solidify and you experience diarrhea. If it's slowed down, waste hardens and isn't
pressed in a timely fashion: that's constipation.

Common factors that can aggravate IBS are:

Food. Each of us reacts differently to various foods. It's not just spicy or
hard-to-digest foods that can irritate our bowel. But occasional constipation is often
relieved by increasing fiber in the daily diet.
Stress. The rigors of everyday life may cause headaches, high blood pressure and
insomnia. Doctors agree that stress is one of the most common triggers of IBS. No
matter what you eat, the effects of stress can show up in your digestive tract.
Caffeine. Coffee, cola, chocolate and other foods containing caffeine can stimulate
muscles and upset their normal rhythm, throwing you off your normal routine. Should
you experience symptoms consistent with IBS, a careful medical history and physical
examination by a qualified surgeon is essential to proper diagnosis.

A number of tests can be performed to ensure that your symptoms are not caused by
something more serious.

These tests may include a flexible sigmoidoscopic examination, colonoscopy, a
hemocult test to detect hidden blood in the stool, X-ray examination of the lower
intestines and a psychological evaluation. These tests may rule out other diseases or
conditions, such as cancer, diverticulitis, inflammation of the intestines or depression.
Many people who suffer from IBS try to ignore the symptoms, or they treat it by taking
remedies that only temporarily relieve their discomfort.

Dr. Alvaro R. Bada. M.D., F.A.C.S. is a board-certified general surgeon. He has offices
in Port Charlotte, North Port.   For an appointment, call Dr. Bada at (941) 255-0069
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