Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms in women


Let us go through irritable bowel syndrome symptoms in women, causes, foods to avoid and treatment.

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Irritable bowel syndrome is a common colon disorder. Irritable bowel syndrome causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramping, bloating gas and constipation. However these problems do not cause any permanent damage to the large intestine. Also it does not cause disabling of persons except a few.

Irritable bowel syndrome is not a serious intestinal disease. It does not cause inflammation or harm bowel tissues and it does not increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Normally, irritable bowel syndrome can be controlled by sensible management of diet, stress and the life style.

Irritable bowel syndrome in women more than men

Though there are many risk factors including diet and genetic makeup, it is seen that women are more prone to irritable bowel syndrome compared to men. Women aged 35 and below are known to be most affected of the lot.  The percentage is so high that women comprise 75 percent of people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

Flatulence in women, bloating, abdominal cramping are common. It has also been noted that women get irritable bowel syndrome more during period, which can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in women

The signs of Irritable bowel syndrome differ from one individual to another and can also be similar to the symptoms of other diseases. The most common signs are:

  • Feelings of bloating
  • Gas or flatulence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping in the abdomen
  • Mucus in stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation

Even a mild case of irritable bowel syndrome can affect the daily life of an affected individual. Sometimes the severe signs of irritable bowel syndrome may have the root cause in some other more serious underlying disease. In case, irritable bowel syndrome does not respond to the prescribed medications then the doctor should be immediately consulted.

Some of the complications that may result from IBS are:

Even though IBS is not connected to any serious conditions, the symptoms of diarrhea and constipation may result in the development of hemorrhoids.

The impact on the quality of life of a person by the IBS is the most significant complication, which can have the following effects:

  • The symptoms and its impact may curtail the social commitments.
  • The discomfort may reduce conjugal happiness
  • May discourage and even cause depression in persons affected by the syndrome

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known. The food is forced to pass through the intestine by the contraction and relaxation of the layers of muscles present inside the wall of intestines.

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In patients of IBS, this process is faster than the normal course, i.e. the contractions are longer and stronger; thereby leading to faster passage of food through the intestine and subsequently resulting in the development of associated symptoms such as bloating, gas and diarrhea.

In other cases of IBS, the process may be slower than normal leading to slowing down of food passage through the intestine, resulting in hard stools, constipation and difficulties in passing stool. One may also experience discomfort, when the intestinal wall stretches to pass out gas. It is believed that abnormalities of the colon and/or the nervous system are the causes for such changes in bowel habits.

Abnormal serotonin levels, impaired balance of good bacteria in the intestine may also cause irritable bowel syndrome.

Certain foods, medications and emotions, causing gas or pressure may trigger irritable bowel syndrome. For example:

  • Foods: Chocolate, milk and alcohol can cause constipation or diarrhea. Carbonated beverages, some fruits and vegetables cause bloating and discomfort. So far, the intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome or the food allergy is not understood clearly.
  • Hormones: Experts believe that hormonal changes cause irritable bowel syndrome. Hence women are more affected by irritable bowel syndrome, particularly around their menstrual period.
  • Stress: Stress does not cause irritable bowel syndrome, but the disturbed schedule and stress can aggravate the syndrome.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome treatment

As the cause of IBS is unclear, providing relief depends on the symptoms exposed.

Mild cases of irritable bowel syndrome can be controlled by managing the stress, diet and lifestyle. But for severe cases of IBS the doctor may advise the following:

  • Fiber supplements to control constipation.
  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • Avoiding high gas foods, specially carbonated beverages, vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
  • Anticholinergic medications, to get relief from painful bowel spasms.
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Antibiotics for fighting infections
  • Counseling

Currently two medications have been approved for the treatment of specific cases of IBS. They are:

  • Alosetron (Lotronex). It is administered for relaxing the colon and for slow movement of the waste. It is permitted with restrictions, under the guidance of a doctor, for cases of diarrhea for women only and when other usual therapies fail.
  • Lubioprostone (Amitiza). It is given for men and women affected by severe constipation due to IBS and when the usual medicines fail.

Both the medicines are restricted in use due to their side effects.

Management of food and lifestyle can provide long-term solutions, such as:

  • Gradually increasing the intake of diet with fiber.
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Avoiding foods that worsen the symptoms. Foods such as chocolate, caffeinated beverages like coffee and sodas, and alcohol should be avoided.
  • Avoiding medications that contain dairy products, caffeine and sugar-free sweeteners (sorbitol or mannitol).  Avoid fatty foods and vegetables like cabbage, beans, cauliflower as they cause more gas problems.
  • Having smaller meals, particularly while suffering from diarrhea.
  • Avoiding dairy products and consuming a balanced diet for enough protein, calcium and nutrition.
  • Practicing regular exercise that may reduce stress, depression and make the body functional.
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