IBS and Inflammation
Research has shown that some people with IBS experience persistent inflammation in digestive tract tissue.
The inflammation may have begun during a stomach virus as an immune response to fight against infection. The immune response causes inflammation, leading to pain in the abdomen, cramping, and diarrhea.
For most people, inflammation subsides once the body senses that it no longer needs to protect itself against an infection. But for some people with IBS, the inflammation continues, as does the abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea.
Inflammation in the digestive tract may also be caused by food allergies, changes in gut bacteria, or genetic predisposition.
Research has shown that anti-inflammatory drugs do not cause a significant reduction in IBS symptoms; but making dietary and lifestyle changes in response to symptoms is more helpful.
Many of these possible changes are discussed throughout this article.
Cramping is caused by spasms in your large intestine. Normally, the muscles in the large intestine contract and relax rhythmically to push the contents of the bowel through the digestive system.
When this rhythm is interrupted, painful cramping can occur, usually connected to diarrhea or constipation.
Diarrhea happens when the large intestine works too quickly and powerfully. It is often accompanied by painful cramps and can lead to dehydration.
Food sensitivities are an identified cause of diarrhea. Working with a doctor or nutritionist to create a personalized diet is one way to avoid eating foods that will cause diarrhea.
You can also keep a food log to keep track of what you eat and your body’s reactions before working with a specialist.
Stress and anxiety have an impact on diarrhea as well, so building stress-reducing practices into your life can be helpful. These include mindfulness, meditation, journaling, exercising, and anything else that lessens stress for you.
If you are experiencing diarrhea frequently or for long stretches of time, you may want to visit your doctor. They can prescribe medications that will prevent severe cramping and painful diarrhea.
Constipation occurs when parts of the intestine cramp. Then, the contents of the bowel are not able to pass through.
Constipation can be extremely painful and can worsen as the colon continues to remove water from the fecal matter. This leaves hardened stool resting inside the bowel.
People who have IBS with constipation often use several different treatments to manage the condition:
- Increasing dietary fiber is one way to treat constipation. Fiber softens the stool, allowing it to make its way through the digestive system. Taking fiber supplements is also an option.
- Like diarrhea, constipation can also be impacted by stress. Introducing stress management practices into your life may reduce the frequency of constipation.
- Prescription medication and laxatives may also be helpful. You should consult your doctor about both, as some laxatives are habit-forming and can be harmful if you take them too often.
IBS bloating can range from uncomfortable to highly painful. It can be caused by eating too much or too fast. It may also result from eating foods to which you are allergic or sensitive.
To prevent bloating, you can eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Eat slowly to avoid consuming too much; this will also keep you from not chewing enough and eating larger pieces of food, which are more difficult to digest.
You can also avoid dairy products, fatty foods, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower. All of these foods increase gas production, leading to bloating and cramps.
If you’re already struggling with painful bloating, you can soothe it by staying hydrated and drinking peppermint tea.
Many people with IBS experience visceral hypersensitivity. This means that they experience pain in internal organs at a higher level than other people.
For people with IBS, this is particularly true in the rectal area.
One treatment for visceral hypersensitivity is prescription medication that reduces the irritability of nerves in the gut. They include tricyclic drugs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and selective noradrenaline and serotonin inhibitors.
Alternative treatments for visceral hypersensitivity include cognitive behavioral therapy to relieve stress and anxiety, which can trigger hypersensitivity. Others have found success with acupuncture.
While anxiety and depression are not examples of physical pain, people who have IBS often deal with one or both of these issues. It is important for both your physical and emotional health to treat them if they come up.
The bowel is partially controlled by the nervous system. Some experts believe that people with IBS have a bowel that is more sensitive to stress. Because of this, anxiety and depression can make IBS symptoms worse.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, there are many things that you can do to treat it. Seeking out counseling is one option; a psychiatrist or doctor may also prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.
If your IBS pain has become debilitating or is significantly impacting your life, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor. They may be able to administer tests, prescribe medication, or suggest options that you are not yet aware of.