Pain in the abdominal region can be caused by a number of different conditions. Due to the non-specific nature of the symptoms, a thorough analysis is often needed to determine the exact cause of this uncomfortable situation. Although such illnesses as Crohn's Disease or even some forms of cancer may be present, one of the most common and non-life threatening illnesses is what is known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS for short. Millions of people suffer from a host of symptoms each year and for this reason, a great deal of research has been devoted to finding ways to alleviate the symptoms. A handful of recent news articles demonstrate the prevalence of this condition.
Symptoms and Causes
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is characterized by stomach pains, bloating and general upper and lower abdominal pain. Diarrhoea and constipation are often times concurrent and can vary in intensity and duration. In some cases, relieving the bowels may ease the discomfort, but this illness tends to be chronic in nature. Some individuals may also experience frequent heartburn and an upset stomach. Weight loss or weight gain can occur depending on the type of symptoms experienced. While IBS may be caused by anxiety or depression, the illness can actually contribute to both due to its socially debilitating nature.
In summary, some of the main symptoms include:
- Pain, bloating and discomfort.
- Pain eased by relieving one's bowels.
- Unexpected weight gain or loss.
- Feelings of anxiety, malaise or depression.
This type of disease is classified as a functional digestive disorder; in other words, there are no known organic causes. Instead, diagnosis is based on family history, the type of pain experienced (upper or lower abdominal pain) and the absence of other medical conditions. While the direct cause of this illness is unknown, some believe it to be hereditary while others have noted that the likelihood of contracting this syndrome increases dramatically after an acute gastrointestinal infection. Several studies have pointed to an association between psychology and the digestive tract; suggesting that this condition may be caused by psychosomatic factors.
Most treatments involve mitigating the symptoms through lifestyle changes. With this type of illness, many doctors find that the nature of abdominal pain is partly due to dietary conditions and partly caused by psychological factors.
On the physical side, natural supplements such as peppermint oil, ginger and fibre have shown to decrease symptoms. Additionally, many sufferers who choose to modify their diets will improve. Such diets involve decreasing the consumption of carbohydrates, refined sugars and avoiding fast food. Man find that eliminating milk will also have positive results.
Medications can be taken to help address the symptoms; stool softeners for those who suffer from constipation and laxatives for those who have diarrhoea. Antispasmodic drugs can often be administered to help stop an over-active intestinal tract but the positive results have been limited. Finally, tricyclic antidepressants are also utilized in conjunction if a doctor determines that psychological behaviour is a contributing factor.
Psychotherapy may also present a valuable resource, as it can teach patients powerful coping mechanisms that can help them lead normal lives. Alternative treatments such as hypnotherapy, herbal supplementation and acupuncture have also shown mixed results. Many who begin to exercise on a regular basis have reported an improvement in their symptoms.
Summarily, some of the treatment options include:
- Modifying an existing diet.
- Ingestion of herbs such as peppermint or ginger.
- The prescription of stool softeners or laxatives.
- Tricyclic antidepressants.
- Alternative options such as acupuncture or exercise.