Here at Cary Gastroenterology, we’re celebrating IBS Awareness Month with The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Irritable bowel syndrome can be a challenging disease to suffer through alone, and we want to start a new conversation about the disease, how to manage your symptoms, and how to live a normal life with your diagnosis. If you want to get involved this year, you can find out more about IBS and open the conversation to educate others about this common issue.

What Is IBS?

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a common disease affecting the digestive tract. Symptoms present themselves through a variety of ways and can differ from person to person. Most commonly, these symptoms include pain in the abdomen, diarrhea or constipation, cramping, gas, unintended weight loss, bleeding from the rectum, bloating, and persistent pain not relieved by passing gas or having a bowel movement. If the above description sounds like you, it’s time to make an appointment to determine if you have IBS and how we can help you manage it.

IBS can present differently in all patients, and there’s no single test to determine if IBS is the issue. This means we usually diagnose IBS through a basic physical exam and patient history. We can perform other basic diagnostics to evaluate your GI health. IBS symptoms often mirror symptoms of more serious GI problems which can be ruled out through diagnostic testing like an X-ray or CT scan, colonoscopy, endoscopy, lactose intolerance testing, or a stool test.

Doctors don’t have a definitive cause for IBS but believe there are a number of factors that can lead to developing the disease or exacerbating the symptoms. IBS can develop after having a GI infection or virus, as well as changes in the bacteria in the gut. Some patients may have IBS as a result of improper contractions of the intestine, leading to poor passage of food through the digestive tract, resulting in hard stools, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Additionally, your nervous system can contribute to stomach issues and inflammation in the intestine.

What Triggers My Discomfort?

There are several known triggers for IBS patients which may result in a flare-up and discomfort. The most common of these include food, stress, and hormones. While everyone reacts differently to certain diets, the most common trigger foods for IBS patients include wheat, beans, milk, carbonated drinks, citrus, dairy, and cabbage. When you’re learning how to manage your symptoms, keep track of what causes your flare-ups as well as what activities or foods can help you to feel normal.

How Do I Manage My IBS?

There is no single treatment or cure for IBS, but symptoms can be managed. If you’re worried that you might be suffering from IBS, start paying attention to the foods and activities that might be associated with your flare-ups. Keep track off all this information and bring it to your next appointment.

Book an appointment with Cary Gastroenterology to discuss and observe any potential IBS symptoms you may be experiencing. While you’re here, we can also go over IBS Awareness Month information in order to better understand the disease and change the conversation about uncomfortable digestive diseases.