To say the least, it’s an embarrassing situation. Your body keeps alternating between diarrhea and constipation. To make matters worse, you’ve noticed more bloating and excessive flatus (passing gas). You haven’t changed your diet lately, so what could it be?
You might be suffering from an illness known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In fact, about 15 percent of the population suffers from symptoms of IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome masquerades under many different names – nervous indigestion, nervous diarrhea, dyspepsia, spastic colon, functional colitis and others.
Each of these terms has been lumped under the name – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And each of the names suggests the same thing – it’s an extremely unpleasant sickness that demands immediate care.
Irritable bowel syndrome affects twice as many women as men, usually beginning in early adulthood, although it can last for many years.
Irritable bowel syndrome is just what it sounds like – your bowel is “irritated.” In other words, your large intestines are acting up. But doctors don’t really know why the intestines do that. And until they find out why, all they can do is figure out who has IBS and try to make them more comfortable.
Recognize the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- IBS usually causes abdominal pain that is linked to alternating episodes of constipation and diarrhea.
- Bouts of diarrhea are usually marked by a sense of urgency – badly needing to go to the bathroom – and an increase in the number of times you need to go to the bathroom. The amount of stool that you actually pass is small, and occasionally IBS sufferers notice that they only pass gas or mucus without passing stools.
- Many people suffer from early-morning diarrhea, and they complain of having to make several trips to the bathroom after breakfast.
- Those who are not suffering from diarrhea pass stools that are hard, dry and pellet-like. You might occasionally notice a feeling of an “incomplete bowel movement,” or you could experience three or four days of constipation followed by several loose, “break-through” stools.
- The abdominal pain and cramping usually is located on the left side of the abdomen. And sometimes pain can radiate up through your shoulders, chest and back.
- Many people become bloated and experience excess gas.
- About half of the people with irritable bowel syndrome also complain of nausea, vomiting, heartburn and belching.
- IBS can start at any age, but it usually bothers people who are between the ages of 20 and 50, and it seems to afflict women twice as often as it does men.
- If you are experiencing fever, anemia, dehydration or weight loss along with some of the other symptoms, you probably do not have irritable bowel syndrome. Fever, anemia, dehydration and weight loss are usually not symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.