Digestion Issues or Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Here’s the Difference

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Mild gastrointestinal disorders like abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and gas can be fairly common but some of these symptoms can actually be early gremlins of a more sinister condition: irritable bowel syndrome.

Even though the actual conditions that trigger an irritable bowel syndrome are not exactly understood, one in five of American citizens can be affected by it so we have compiled a list of possible symptoms that should set off your proverbial medical alarm bells.

One out of five Americans suffer from a gastrointestinal disorder called irritable bowel syndrome

Women under the Age of 50, Listen Up

Even though the exact reasoning behind this hypothesis is unknown, women who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome greatly surpass the number of male sufferers although the number of female sufferers is drastically reduced once they exceed the age of 50.

In fact, the number of females who suffer from this condition are double compared to their male counterparts in numerous studies but the symptoms reduce after the age of 50 when the female body experiences various hormonal changes during menopause or it could be due to the changes in gut bacteria in old age.

Abdominal Pain or Discomfort

One of the key symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is abdominal pain, particularly in the lower abdomen area, but it is a sign of IBS only if its compounded with other discomforts like diarrhea or constipation.

Since the walls of the intestines have layers of muscle fibers which help to move food through the system using contractions, contractions which are more laborious or last longer can cause other conditions like gas, swelling and diarrhea which are prime suspects for IBS.

Amongst the most common causes of IBS are stress and anxiety which directly affect the body’s digestive system and gut-brain axis

Quality of Life

Mood disorders like stress and anxiety are understood to be contributing factors to IBS along with chronic fatigue – all of which can have a major effect on the sufferer’s quality of life. Other life instances which affect IBS include childhood trauma, history of childhood abuse or family dysfunction which are understood to also contribute to IBS since a majority of patients suffer from mental disorders including anxiety and depression.

Fatigue and stress can lead to muscle contractions and aches causing a disruption in the body’s neurotransmission which leads to sleep disorders and other mental conditions which have a direct impact on the body’s digestive system; there is a direct neural network between your gut and your brain known as the gut-brain axis which transmits feedback between the two and a stress or fatigued individual’s brain can send distress signals to the gut, disrupting bodily functions.

Research shows that women are twice as likely to develop IBS compared to men but the symptoms of this gastrointestinal disorder begin to decrease once female sufferers reach the age of 50

IBS and Fibromyalgia

More than half of the patients suffering from IBS also show signs of fibromyalgia and it is hypothesized that they often happen together.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that is characterized by pain in the muscles and the human skeleton, particularly in the back and lower back area which is compounded by stress, fatigue, mood fluctuations and sleep disorders.

According to research more than 50 and even possibly 60 percent of patients suffering from fibromyalgia also suffer from IBS since fibromyalgia heightens the brain’s sense of pain in the muscles, bones and deep tissue pain.

Since the brain goes into overdrive mode with pain sensations in various parts of the body, it can lead to an enhanced sensitivity to pain and also send the nervous system into overdrive mode. In these instances, opioids or over the counter drugs can be pretty redundant but antidepressants can play a role in decreasing the risk of both fibromyalgia and IBS.

Combatting Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It is important to combat IBS by focusing both on mental and physical symptoms and their remedies along with a thorough knowledge of the medical condition since additional knowledge will enable you to better understand your body and how you can take care of it.

Additional activities that can help include cardiovascular exercise which helps to build muscle fiber along with yoga and meditation which can be instrumental to control both your mind and body. IBS is deeply connected to your lifestyle so why not try to bring about positive changes which will not only help fend away IBS but also improve your everyday quality of life?


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