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HEALTHY REASONING: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Is An Annoying Chronic Problem

HEALTHY REASONING: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Is An Annoying Chronic Problem

By Allan Bucka Jones
PRIDE Health Columnist

When we think of problems in the gut or belly, colon, colorectal or bowel cancer comes to mind. This cancer can be detected in the large intestine or gut. It is 90% preventable if detected early. In Canada, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, accounting for more than 12% of cases of cancer in both sexes.

However, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a fairly common, annoying belly problem, which affects many Canadians. To date there are no Canadian data regarding the incidence of IBS, however extrapolating evidence from elsewhere, provides an approximate estimate that 120,000 Canadians are diagnosed with IBS each year. Women are twice more likely to develop IBS than men.

IBS affects the large intestine (colon). It causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. It is a chronic condition that needs to manage long term.

Even though signs and symptoms are uncomfortable, IBS, unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease, does not cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

Only a small number of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress. Others will need medication and counselling.

The signs and symptoms of IBS can vary widely from person to person and often mimic those of other diseases. The most common signs and symptoms are, abdominal pain or cramping; a bloated feeling; gas; diarrhea or constipation (sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea); mucus in the stool

For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although there will likely be times when the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely. Fewer than 1 in 5 who have symptoms seek medical help. It is important to see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits, or if you have any other signs or symptoms of IBS, because these may indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. Symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition include, rectal bleeding; abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night, and weight loss.

The exact cause of IBS is not known, but a variety of factors play a role. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm, as they move food from your stomach through your intestinal tract to your rectum. If you have IBS, the contractions may be stronger and last longer than normal, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. Or the opposite may occur, with weak intestinal contractions slowing food passage and leading to hard, dry stools.

Abnormalities in your gastrointestinal nervous system also may play a role, causing you to experience greater than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines, can make your body overreact to the changes that normally occur in the digestive process. This overreaction can cause pain, diarrhea or constipation.

It is not clear what causes IBS so treatment focuses on the relief of symptoms. In most cases, you can successfully control mild signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, by learning to manage stress and making changes in your diet and lifestyle. Try to avoid foods that trigger your symptoms. Also try to get enough exercise, drink plenty of fluids and get adequate sleep.

If your problems are severe, you may need more than lifestyle changes. Your doctor may suggest medications. Helpful dietary changes include eliminating high-gas foods, like carbonated beverages, vegetables (especially cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower) and raw fruits. Eliminating gluten:  Research shows that some people with IBS, report improvement in diarrhea symptoms if they stop eating gluten (wheat, barley and rye).

The best way to deal with the problem caused by IBS is to interact closely with your GP / family doctor, naturopath or gastroenterologist. Try to move beyond symptomatic relief and strive for an approach to allow the body to heal itself. It is possible !!!

Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. He can be heard on “Allan Bucka Jones LIVE”, Sundays from 4 to 6pm on VIBE 105 FM Toronto, www.vibe1055.com, VIBE RADIO App, Rogers Digital Cable 945, Bell Fibe 973 or mobile app TuneIn Radio. You can contact Allan Bucka Jones at allan@jonesandjones.ca.

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