Irritable bowel syndrome commonly known as IBS is a medical condition that affects the digestive system of the body. Nearly 6-18% of the world population is said to be effected with IBS. It is a lifelong problem and there is no permanent cure, the symptoms are only manageable through diet. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but physicians have explained few probable causes.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome occurs with a group of symptoms that causes irritation to the gastrointestinal system. The classic symptom includes intermittent diarrhoea and constipation. Studies have proven IBS as a functional gastrointestinal disorder. Functional gastrointestinal disorder happens due to gut brain interactions. In case of a more sensitive gut, abdominal pain and bloating are symptoms. The muscle contractions in the bowels, lead to irregular diarrhoea and constipation.
What are the causes of IBS?
- Muscle contractions in the intestine: Patients with IBS, suffer from very sensitive colon. The muscle layers inside the intestinal wall help to move food through the digestive tract. The contractions in these muscle layers might become strong and last for longer than normal causing, irritation, bloating and diarrhoea. On the other hand weak intestinal muscle contractions can slow down the movement of food particles, and make them hard or dry stools.
- Nervous sensitivities in digestive tract: Any abnormalities in the nerves of digestive system leads to abdomen discomfort, flatulence or frequent feeling of passing motions. Poor gut-brain interactions can cause the body to over react to the process of digestion, resulting in abdominal cramps, loose stools or constipation.
- Inflammatory conditions in the intestines: Patients suffering from IBS might have increased inflammatory cells. These may lead to diarrhoea associated with pain abdomen.
- Infection in Gastrointestinal tract: Irritable Bowel Syndrome can develop post any infection to stomach caused by bacteria or virus. Sometimes IBS flares up due to excessive growth of gut bacteria.
- Effect of serotonin: the neurotransmitter serotonin which is produced in the gut acts on digestive nerves. Persistent diarrhoea leads to increased serotonin levels in the gut. Patients predominant with constipation has decreased amount of serotonin level.
- Change in Microflora: The gut bacteria or microflora are the good bacteria that are present in the intestine and has a major role in maintaining health. The constitution of bacteria will be different in case of people suffering with IBS compared to normal gut bacteria.
- Studies have proven 70% of the categories who suffer from IBS are women. Change in hormones may trigger the symptoms of IBS.
What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
- Depending on person to person the signs and symptoms may vary. Common clinical presentations are –
- Abdominal pain or cramps which is relived after passing the stools
- Abdominal bloating
- Excess flatulence in the stomach
- Alternative episodes of diarrhoea or constipation
- Passing mucous with the stools
When to visit a doctor
Visit a doctor when there are intermittent changes in bowel habits or any of the above discussed symptoms persistently. This condition should not be neglected as it may lead to serious conditions like colon cancer. Other symptoms may include:
- Severe weight loss
- Frequent diarrhoea at night
- Regular rectal bleeding
- Iron deficiency anaemia
- Unexplained vomiting
- Difficulty in swallowing food
- Persistent abdominal cramps which gets better after passing gas or motions.
Ayurvedic approach to Irritable bowel syndrome
Ayurveda gives prime importance to concept of Agni (our digestive system). Acharya Charaka and Sushrutha explained the disease grahani which can be correlated to irritable bowel syndrome. Ayurveda considers grahani as a part of small intestine. Grahani is caused due to imbalance in the Agni. This may lead to diarrhoea, indigestion, abdominal cramps etc. Ayurveda recommends various treatments for grahani.
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