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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a common condition that occurs when the intestines go into a spasm. It is known to affect 1 in 5 people worldwide. This ailment is not fatal but can affect one’s quality of life. Symptoms of IBS are non-specific and can also be found in many other intestinal disorders.

It is therefore a diagnosis of exclusion, ie. until the more life-threatening conditions like cancer or inflammatory bowel disease are excluded, one should not be diagnosed as simply having IBS.

Common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal cramps usually in the lower tummy or on the left side. The pain can be sharp, stabbing or gripping. The pain eases after a bowel movement or after passing gas.
  • An urgent feeling to open the bowels
  • Irregular bowel habit which quickly changes from constipation to diarrhea. Stool frequency also increases, although patients may not become dehydrated, as is the case with diarrhoea in gastroenteritis.
  • There are also deviations in the motions. The stool changes from small to hard pellets to lose.
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Excessive flatus

There are also some other less common symptoms such as:

  • Backache
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches accompanied by flushing, sweating and fainting
  • Agitation
  • Pain when passing stool

It is treated with dietary modifications (by eliminating triggers), medications aimed at reducing symptoms (eg. cramps and bloating), as well as starting a regular exercise regimen to reduce stress.

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