TUMMY TROUBLES: IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME

Posted on December 9, 2009, under Gastrointestinal.

Q. Whilst we are discussing bowel disorders, what is irritable bowel syndrome?

A. This is a common bowel problem in which no organic disease can be found. It is probably nervous or psychogenic in nature, although certain dietetic factors (such as inadequate fibre) may play a part.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. They are fairly constant and consist of long bouts of diarrhoea, which is worse when under stress and anxiety, does not involve the passing of blood, constipation or abdominal pain. Pain is eased by a bowel action or the passage of wind. These symptoms may occur separately, or in succession, or together. The patient’s general health is usually good. Often a lot of mucus is passed but not blood.

Q. What about diagnosis and treatment?

A. Symptoms of this nature always require a full bowel check to exclude a serious disease. X-rays and endoscopic examinations may take place. Treatment includes a high fibre diet, rich in unprocessed bran and fibre foods. Foods which obviously upset should be excluded. Medical hypnotherapy by an experienced doctor often produces excellent results.

Q. What is aerophagy?

A. This means swallowing air but usually means the symptoms that occur when there is too much gas or air in the G.I. system and when there is no organic disease.

Q. Where does intestinal gas come from?

A. It may only come from a few sources. These are air that is swallowed or gas produced within the intestinal system itself. It is easy to unconsciously swallow air, specially at times of emotional stress, when chewing gum, smoking, with excessive salivation or with a dry throat. Many who like to belch often take in more air than they eliminate. Many foods, specially fizzy drinks and various sugary fruit juices and carbohydrates are notorious for increasing gas in the bowel system.

Q. What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

A. There is a feeling of fullness, maybe nausea. Belching, dyspepsia and “indigestion” are common. Much wind is passed by the bowel, a condition called flatulence. Treatment consists in avoiding the causes. Eat in a peaceful environment. Avoid fizzy drinks and alcohol with meals. Avoid gum chewing, smoking, or foods or vegetables that knowingly cause distress. Apples, grapes, raisins, bananas, leafy greens, onions, lentils, legumes and fried foods are best avoided. Experience is the best teacher. Drug therapy is not necessary. Fibre often helps, such as bran for breakfast each day.

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