Dr. Pete Rosa

Dr. Pete Rosa, M.D.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common problem. Many people suffer from its symptoms, which range from constipation to diarrhea, and cramping to excessive gas.

It is a lifelong problem for many people causing frequent social problems due to its unpredictable symptoms. Some people choose to avoid social situations and obligations rather than risk the embarrassing problems an irritable bowel might bring on.

The good news is that irritable bowel syndrome does not harm a person. It does not cause weight loss, malnutrition, or cancer, and it does not shorten one’s life.

There are illnesses, however, that cause similar symptoms. Lactose intolerance, malabsorption syndromes, infections, and other intestinal illnesses should be checked for by doing blood tests, stool cultures, testing for blood in the stool, and doing a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

There are a number of treatments that can be useful in treating this problem. The first step is to add “bulk-forming laxatives” to your diet, such as Metamucil®. They will increase the fiber in the bowel which can make the muscle around the bowel less spastic. The fiber will also absorb fluids, thus being helpful for diarrhea as well as constipation.

If this is not enough, it may be helpful to add medicines which relax the bowel. These will usually give some degree of relief. Low doses of antidepressants are useful in some cases.

Since stresses are apt to make the symptoms worse, it is wise to avoid stressful situations and to learn relaxation techniques. Routine physical exercise also gives many people a level of relief.

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