Irritable Bowel Awareness Month: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects up to 15% of people in the United States. Pelvic pain, gas, urgent bowel movements, and other uncomfortable symptoms characterize this common gastrointestinal condition. While IBS is common, many Americans go undiagnosed because of the nature of its symptoms. 

This April, UAB Medical West is celebrating National Irritable Bowel Awareness Month by raising awareness for this condition's signs, symptoms, and treatment. We’re dedicated to reducing the stigma around IBS and hope to provide comfort and treatment options for those suffering from IBS. Learn everything you need to know about IBS and help us raise awareness this April and beyond!

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome? 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract—stomach and large and small intestine. The cause of IBS is unknown, but some studies point to a disconnect or miscommunication between certain gastrointestinal signs and the brain, which causes the colon to contract more than usual. Beyond these miscommunications, other possible causes include stress, infection, or a change in gut microbes. 

What Are the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?  

There are four different types of IBS, each characterized by its symptoms. These types include:
For many, these symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg when suffering from IBS. Symptoms may change over time, but if you experience signs that interfere with your daily life, we recommend seeing your local GI (gastrointestinal) doctor. Some other common symptoms can include: 

What Are Irritable Bowel Triggers?

While studies to learn more about irritable bowel syndrome are ongoing, some triggers may bring on worsening IBS symptoms, also called flare-ups. Stress is a known trigger of IBS, but it’s important to note that stress doesn’t cause IBS. 
Smoking and specific food groups, like wheat, dairy, and fruits, may worsen symptoms of IBS as well. Each case of IBS is different, so we recommend keeping a food journal to note if any foods worsen your symptoms, and you can discuss your findings with your doctor adjust your diet as needed. 

Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Curable?

Irritable bowel syndrome isn’t curable, but you can manage your symptoms. First, if you’re experiencing symptoms of IBS, don’t hesitate to seek support from a specialist. An IBS expert, like those at UAB Medical West, can diagnose your ailment and provide insights on managing your symptoms. 
Depending on your symptoms, your provider may suggest laxatives, fiber supplements, anti-diarrheal or pain medications, among other treatments. There are also IBS-specific medicines, like Alosetron and Eluxadoline, that can ease painful symptoms. No matter the type of IBS you suffer from, you may be able to reduce flare-ups with plenty of sleep, eating foods high in fiber, and drinking enough water each day. For more lifestyle changes to improve your IBS symptoms, reach out to a GI doctor near you. 

Find the Relief You Deserve with UAB Medical West

At UAB Medical West, we understand that discussing seemingly embarrassing symptoms, like bowel movements or pelvic pain, can be uncomfortable. However, there’s nothing to be ashamed of! This April, we’re raising awareness for IBS to diminish any hesitation from seeking treatment. Our team at UAB Medical West provides a comfortable, stress-free experience, so you can find the relief you deserve from irritable bowel syndrome. 

Need Help Managing Your IBS? Call Our Team of Experts Today!

Are you suffering from IBS symptoms? UAB Medical West proudly serves Birmingham, AL, and surrounding areas, including Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, Vance, and surrounding areas. Call us at (205) 481-7000 today or contact us online to connect with our GI specialists. 

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