Abdominal Pain

Abdominal Pain

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Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects approximately twice as many women as men. IBS is a complex issue that is influenced by stress, diet, and multiple physiologic factors. Symptoms may be impacted by the volume of food eaten, environment, medications, and hormonal changes.

Here are the eight most common symptoms of IBS.

1. Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is the primary symptom of IBS. Pain is most commonly felt in the lower abdomen and may be constant or intermittent.

Medications that belong to a group of drugs which are called anticholinergics are often prescribed to reduce pain. They are usually taken before meals because pain often occurs during or shortly after a meal is consumed.

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners view IBS as an imbalance of the body’s energy. They base treatments on specific qualities related to pain and other symptoms. Acupuncture, tai chi and qi gong are recommended by traditional Chinese medicine experts as means to relieve pain.

Change in Bowel Movements

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2. Change in Bowel Movements

Bowel movements may fluctuate. Some people who have IBS have a tendency towards loose stools while others suffer from constipation. Many people who have a diagnosis of IBS present with alternating patterns of diarrhea and constipation. Stools may be flat and ribbon-like, or they may be in the form of tiny pellets. Stools may be hard, watery, or lumpy.

Changes in bowel habits often contribute to pain. Consuming adequate amounts of fiber can help to regulate bowel movement consistency. Medications may be needed to control diarrhea or constipation.

Ayurvedic practitioners differentiate multiple types of IBS. They consider the quality of a person’s stools when formulating a diagnosis and treatment plan. Interventions are prescribed based upon stool characteristics, other symptoms, and a person’s basic body type. Fasting, massage, yoga, herbs, and other recommendations may be prescribed to normalize bowel movement consistency, frequency, and rate of passage.


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3. Gas

Gas may cause distention, which is often referred to as abdominal bloating. It can be the cause of embarrassment and discomfort. Burping and flatulence may be excessive.

Gas may be relieved by pharmaceuticals and herbs. Herbs that help to relieve gas include fennel, dill, caraway, chamomile, and peppermint.

Specific foods are more likely than others to cause gas. Beans, cucumbers, and cruciferous vegetables are frequently problematic.

Keeping a food journal helps individuals who have IBS identify foods that are gas producing for them, allowing them to avoid those foods. Some people are able to enjoy problematic foods in small amounts or occasionally by following a rotation diet.


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4. Pressure

Pressure may be due to gas. Sensations of rectal pressure may occur frequently. The need to defecate may be accompanied by urgency. Sometimes the bowels do not empty completely and a lingering sensation of fullness may occur.

Pressure and straining to move the bowels may cause hemorrhoids to develop. Pressure is relieved as other symptoms are corrected. Consuming a fiber rich diet helps to improve stool consistency and bowel regularity. This can help to facilitate defecation and relieve constipation that results in pressure.


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5. Anxiety

Anxiety increases other symptoms of IBS. It changes the energy patterns throughout the body. Stress impacts the speed which stool takes to pass through the intestines. It affects the secretion of digestive enzymes. All of these factors are reasons why stress management is such an important factor in the successful treatment of IBS.

Having a chronic illness produces anxiety, and so a cycle may develop that results in increased anxiety and abdominal distress. Sometimes medications are prescribed to help relieve stress. Relaxation techniques and counseling can help sufferers of IBS break the cycle of anxiety and IBS symptoms. Tools and techniques that offer relief include relaxation training, biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, and guided imagery.

Studies show that improving time management skills, utilizing progressive muscle relaxation techniques, practicing breathing exercises, and engaging in assertiveness training classes help to reduce symptoms of IBS.

Many experts believe that interventions that help to relieve anxiety are the most under-prescribed and valuable tools available for the treatment of IBS.

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Mucus in the Stool

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6. Mucus in the Stool

Stools may contain excessive amounts of sticky, stretchy mucus. With treatment, mucus may decrease once the pattern of elimination is corrected. Homeopathy is sometimes employed to relieve mucus and correct other symptoms of IBS. Specific remedies are recommended based upon a person’s constitutional makeup and specific concerns. Some of the most common homeopathic remedies used to relieve IBS symptoms include Argentum Nitricum, Asafoetida, Colocynthis, Lycopodium, and Nux Vomica.

Food Intolerance

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7. Food Intolerance

Most people who have IBS find that their symptoms are worse when they consume certain foods. In addition to gas producing foods, some people find that dairy products cause their symptoms to exacerbate. This may be due to an allergy or a lack of the enzyme “lactase,” which is needed for the proper digestion of dairy products. If lactose intolerance contributes to gassiness, avoiding dairy, consuming only cultured dairy products, or taking a lactase enzyme may be beneficial.

Altered Intestinal Flora

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8. Altered Intestinal Flora

The gut contains vast amounts of bacteria. Most of these bacteria are harmless and beneficial. However, the balance of bacteria within the intestines may be altered due to irritation, changes in bowel habits, and sensitivity. Specific tests may be prescribed to evaluate gut flora. Medications, essential oils, herbs, probiotics, and prebiotics and dietary changes help to restore a healthy balance of bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract.

Functional medicine experts prescribe a fourfold plan for reestablishing healthy gut flora balance:

  • Actions are taken to remove harmful or excessive pathogens.
  • Healthy bacteria are replaced.
  • Additional bacteria are introduced, which help to keep unhealthy organisms in check.
  • Foods and nutrients are prescribed that facilitate healing of irritated tissues.

Diagnosis and Treatment of IBS

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Diagnosis and Treatment of IBS

For a diagnosis of IBS to be made, abdominal pain must occur for three days each month out for three consecutive months. Two of the following three statements regarding the pain must apply.

  • The pain stops or diminishes after a bowel movement.
  • The pain is related to a change in the frequency of bowel movements.
  • Pain is associated with changes in how the stool appears.

Symptoms of IBS are similar to those caused by other gastrointestinal illnesses. Unlike most other conditions that cause abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, IBS does not cause or result from physical changes of the gastrointestinal organs. Because of that, IBS is classified as a functional disorder. It is diagnosed by ruling out other conditions that produce similar symptoms.

Because IBS is a complex condition, which is impacted by factors within and outside of the body, a comprehensive ongoing treatment plan is essential in order to obtain and maintain optimal wellness. Conventional and alternative health practices offer benefits for people who have IBS.

Read more about the symptoms of IBS over at NewLifeOutlook.

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