People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) experience abdominal pain and cramps, and usually diarrhea alternating with constipation. Sometimes they experience frequent diarrhea or constipation rather than one alternating with the other. Other common symptoms include a feeling of gas, bloating, fullness in the abdomen, and a poor appetite. Often a bowel movement temporarily relieves these symptoms. The disorder is also known as spastic colon, irritable colon and nervous stomach. Many people experience IBS symptoms as life-altering.
You should see your family physician if you have experienced any of these symptoms and have not yet discussed them with him or her.
What Causes IBS?
The cause of IBS is unclear. Sometimes IBS occurs after an intestinal infection. Other times it occurs after a stressful experience. But most of the time IBS occurs without any clear cause. Some people with IBS have symptoms most days. Others may have long periods with few or no symptoms between episodes.
Some research studies have found that people with IBS have abnormal levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in their gastrointestinal system. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that enable nerve cells to communicate with each other. The abnormal levels of serotonin cause problems with the movement of smooth muscles within the intestines (motility) and increased pain sensitivity in the gastrointestinal system. Some people with IBS obtain relief from their symptoms when they take antidepressants that focus on restoring a more normal neurotransmitter level.