April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month and a time for us to educate ourselves and raise awareness on a topic we may feel uncomfortable to talk to friends and family about. IBS is the most common diagnosed gastrointestinal condition and often diagnosis is based off symptoms and ruling out other diseases that produce similar symptoms.
Here is IBS at a glance…
IBS affects 10-15% of people worldwide, is often more common in women than men, and can affect all ages. Symptoms can vary from abdominal pain and cramps to bouts of diarrhea and constipation. IBS affects the large intestine and is not to be confused with other diagnoses such as inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, or even Crohns disease.
It may be possible that you or maybe a friend or loved one have recently been diagnosed with IBS.. now what? What is out there for treatment? How can symptoms be managed? The American Medical Association recommends a combination of exercise, diet modifications, possible medications/supplements, and PHYSICAL THERAPY!
The statement is true: “motion is lotion”, and is the same for the gut, the more physically active we are the more it stimulates our vagus nerve (a key player in the role of digestion). Exercise has led to greater improvement in IBS symptoms along with better quality of life.
Approximately 90% of people restrict their diet to prevent or improve their IBS symptoms. Although food allergies are uncommon with IBS, food sensitivities/intolerances are often reported. It is always a good idea to talk with your primary care provider or seek the assistance of a registered dietician before drastically changing your diet.
There are a lot of different avenues to take when it comes to medication and people will respond to them differently which is why it is important to discuss your options with your doctor.
Many don’t know that PT is another beneficial component to your treatment plan! Visceral manipulation therapy is often one of the treatments used, which focuses on healing the organs of the body. This technique looks for connective tissue imbalances throughout the body in this case specifically within the abdomen. This technique can improve organ function and help improve symptoms of pain.
The pelvic floor is also addressed and often not an area many would think would be involved. Anytime there is pain involved, specifically abdominal pain, posturing and guarding tend to increase which can lead to an “overactive” pelvic floor. This overactivity can make it difficult to have a bowel movement or completely empty which can increase symptoms of bloating and pain.
In the end, it is of utmost importance to not let IBS overwhelm your life. Always be an advocate for yourself and use the resources available to make sound decisions on your healthcare and know there are options that can help relieve your pain!
Chey, W. D., Kurlander, J., & Eswaran, S. (2015). Irritable Bowel Syndrome. JAMA, 313(9), 949–958.