IBS Awareness Month

IBS Awareness Month 2022

Mark Olsen, MBA

April 8, 2022
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the digestive system. The American College of Gastroenterology reported that “IBS is a very common disorder and scientific tests show that about 10% to 15% of people in the United States have it.” With this high number of Americans suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) declared April to be the awareness month for IBS in 1997. A whole month is dedicated to raising awareness of IBS diagnoses, quality of life concerns, and available treatment options.

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. These disorders cause problems in how the brain and stomach work together to process meals and produce energy.

Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms will vary but are typically present for an extended period. Common symptoms include changes in the frequency of having a bowel movement, changes in the appearance of your bowel movements, and abdominal pain and/or cramping. Based on your previous bowel movements, your doctor may categorize your IBS into four categories:

  • IBS-U involves an undefined subtype, and symptoms will vary.
  • IBS-Mixed involves stools that become loose and alternate. Individuals may develop abdominal discomfort when having a bowel movement.
  • IBS-D includes abdominal discomfort, but bowel movements are usually loose and diarrhea-like.
  • IBS-C includes abdominal discomfort and constipation.

Understanding which category of IBS you may have is critical so the proper medication can help treat your underlying symptoms.

What caused my IBS to develop?

Researchers currently do not know why IBS symptoms appear. Some present a case where symptoms appear after a bacterial infection in the intestines, while others blame environmental factors such as an unhealthy lifestyle and stress. IBS also does not discriminate at any age and affects women more than men.

What are the steps to diagnose IBS?

Your medical practitioner cannot test specifically for IBS; instead, they will diagnose you based on your associated gastrointestinal symptoms. A colonoscopy, where a flexible tube is inserted through your anus to observe your colon, may be recommended for those over 50 and experiencing IBS-related symptoms.

There are other tests to rule out other possible concerns, like an infection or parasitic invasion. These tests are:

  • A stool sample where a microscope is used to check for parasites.
  • A stool sample that is tested for blood.
  • Blood tests to test for low blood count, which could lead to developing anemia.

How can I treat my IBS?

Since IBS differs from one person to another, a generic dietary and lifestyle change cannot be recommended. Instead, your medical practitioner will work with you to develop which specific changes you should make to your diet and lifestyle since your IBS symptoms are unique. Here are some tips to relieve your symptoms:

  • Avoid foods and liquids that stimulate the intestines, like caffeine or colas.
  • Implement a regular exercise routine.
  • Increase the amount of fiber in your diet, but it may lead to extra bloating. Consult your medical practitioner first.

It is not recommended to take over-the-counter medications without first talking to your medical practitioner. Some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, can worsen your symptoms.

The good news is that symptoms often get better with treatment, and IBS does not cause permeant damage to your intestines too.

What can Cross Valley Health & Medicine do for me?

Cross Valley Health & Medicine medical practitioners are trained in primary care, and this means that they are very experienced in identifying and managing short and long-term chronic conditions. If you are experiencing gastro-related symptoms, your Cross Valley Health & Medicine medical practitioner may ask about your family history of colorectal issues and other medical issues that you may have an increased genetic risk. They may refer you to a specialist for further testing. Ready to discuss having a colorectal screening done? Visit us online at www.crossvalleyhealth.com or give us a call at 845-561-7075.

Cross Valley Health & Medicine is a primary care practice located in Newburgh NY, allowing for both virtual and in-person appointments. The practice has two medical providers on staff, Doctor Paul Saladino who is dual board-certified in Addiction Medicine and Internal Medicine and a Christian Plaza, who is a family nurse practitioner. Both practitioners are eager to see new patients for the following programs: Substance Abuse TreatmentBehavioral Health ManagementHIV/AIDS Care ManagementPrimary CareMedical Marijuana CertificationsMedication-Assisted TreatmentSTD/STI Care Management, and Weight Loss Management. If you are interested in becoming a patient of Cross Valley, please click here to access our online paperwork portal. Visit us online at www.crossvalleyhealth.com or give our office a call at 845-561-7075.

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