How can you tell the difference between just an upset tummy and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (also known as IBS)?

Many of us will get an upset tummy every now and then due to dietary indiscretion. Medically, it is known as gastroenteritis, or food poisoning. Harmful bacteria in poorly prepared or stored food causes bowel infection leading to symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, fever, bloatedness, nausea and vomiting. An upset stomach usually gets better on its own with rest after a few days and the person’s bowel function returns to the normal self pretty much immediately. In persons with IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome, they typically have upset stomachs continuously almost every day for months or years. Each attack may be triggered by stress or a variety of food. The common symptoms of IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome include bloatedness, abdominal cramps, excessive gas, diarrhoea or constipation.

Are there any particular reasons why someone would get IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

It is not clear why someone would get IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome may develop after an episode of upset stomach or food poisoning. This is a reason some doctors believe that the bowel infection or subsequent use of antibiotics may have disrupted the balance of intestinal bacteria ecosystem. IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome tend to start in the teenage ages or in the early adulthood. It often affects women more than men.

How can you make changes in your lifestyle or diet to alleviate symptoms?

To others, the symptoms of IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome may appear trivial or funny. But to IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers, they can be very disruptive, they are bothered frequently by tummy cramps or embarrassed by excessive gas and stress-induced diarrhoea runs.

Good balanced diet is important. However, I cannot recommend any specific diet because IBS ie Irritable Bowel Syndrome affect one person differently from another. But, in general, avoid foods and drinks (eg. coffee, tea) that contain caffeine because it stimulates the bowel. Have sufficient vegetables and fruits in the diet (excessive fibre however may however make bloatedness and gas worse.) Regular exercise and sleep will help reduce stress and may improve symptoms.

What kind of medical assistance can you receive for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

The symptoms of IBS are similar to colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (for example like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis). One of the important tests a colorectal surgeon needs to recommend is a colonoscopy to differentiate between IBS and these other serious conditions.

The goal of medical treatment is to relieve symptoms, to educate patients to allow them to understand their condition and facilitate their participation in managing their condition. The important thing to understand is that IBS, however bothersome and disabling, does not lead to a serious disease such as cancer. Symptoms can often be improved and relieved through treatment.