Treatments for Irritable bowel syndrome


Treatment list for Irritable bowel syndrome: The list of treatments mentioned in various sources for Irritable bowel syndrome includes the following list. Always seek professional medical advice about any treatment or change in treatment plans.

Treatments of Irritable bowel syndrome discussion: In children, IBS is treated mainly through changes in diet--eating more fiber and less fat to help prevent spasms--and through bowel training to teach the child to empty the bowels at regular, specific times during the day. Medications like laxatives are rarely prescribed because children are more susceptible to addiction than adults. When laxatives are necessary, parents must follow the doctor's instructions carefully. Learning stress management techniques may help some children. 1

How Does a Good Diet Help IBS?

For many people, eating a proper diet lessens IBS symptoms. Before changing your diet, it is a good idea to keep a journal noting which foods seem to cause distress. Discuss your findings with your doctor. You also may want to consult a registered dietitian, who can help you make changes in your diet. For instance, if dairy products cause your symptoms to flare up, you can try eating less of those foods. Yogurt might be tolerated better because it contains organisms that supply lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk products. Because dairy products are an important source of calcium and other nutrients that your body needs, be sure to get adequate nutrients in the foods that you substitute.

Dietary fiber may lessen IBS symptoms in many cases. Whole grain breads and cereals, beans, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Consult your doctor before using an over-the-counter fiber supplement. High-fiber diets keep the colon mildly distended, which may help to prevent spasms from developing. Some forms of fiber also keep water in the stools, thereby preventing hard stools that are difficult to pass. Doctors usually recommend that you eat just enough fiber so that you have soft, easily passed, and painless bowel movements. High-fiber diets may cause gas and bloating, but within a few weeks, these symptoms often go away as your body adjusts to the diet.

Large meals can cause cramping and diarrhea in people with IBS. Symptoms may be eased if you eat smaller meals more often or just eat smaller portions. This should help, especially if your meals are low in fat and high in carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

Can Medicines Relieve IBS Symptoms?

Your doctor may prescribe fiber supplements or occasional laxatives if you are constipated. Some doctors prescribe drugs that control colon muscle spasms, drugs that slow the movement of food through the digestive system, tranquilizers, or antidepressant drugs, all of which may relieve symptoms.

It is important to follow the physician's instructions when taking IBS medications--particularly laxatives, which can be habit forming if not used carefully. 2

IBS has no cure, but you can do things to relieve symptoms. Treatment may involve

  • diet changes
  • medicine
  • stress relief

You may have to try a combination of things to see which works best for you.3

To find out which foods are a problem, write down this information:

  • What you eat during the day.

  • What symptoms you have.

  • When symptoms occur.

  • What foods always make you feel bad.

Take your notes to the doctor to see if you should stop eating certain foods.3

Fiber reduces IBS symptoms--especially constipation--because it makes stool soft, bulky, and easier to pass. Fiber is found in bran, bread, cereal, beans, fruit, and vegetables.

Here are some examples of foods with fiber:

Fruits Vegetables Breads, cereals, and beans
Broccoli, raw
Carrots, raw
Kidney beans
Lima beans
Whole-grain bread
Whole-grain cereal

Add foods with fiber to your diet a little at a time to let your body get used to them. Too much fiber all at once might cause gas, which can trigger symptoms in a person with IBS.

Besides telling you to eat more foods with fiber, the doctor might also tell you to get more fiber by taking a fiber pill or drinking water mixed with a special high-fiber powder.3

Large meals can cause cramping and diarrhea in people with IBS. If this happens to you, try eating four or five small meals a day. Or, have your usual three meals, but eat less at each meal.3

If necessary, the doctor might give you medicine to help with symptoms:

  • Laxatives: To treat constipation.
  • Antispasmodics: To slow contractions in the bowel, which helps with diarrhea and pain.
  • Antidepressants: To help those who have severe pain.

You must follow your doctor's instructions when you use these medicines. Otherwise, you could become dependent on them.3

Learning to reduce stress can help. With less stress, you may find that you have less cramping and pain. Also, you may find it easier to manage your symptoms.

Meditation, exercise, and counseling are some things that might help. You may need to try different activities to see what works best for you.3

Drinking lots of water and increasing your fiber intake may help, especially if constipation is a problem. Fiber is found in bran, bread, cereal, beans, fruits, and vegetables. It's a good idea to increase the fiber in your diet gradually to avoid causing gas and pain. Many people with IBS also use a fiber supplement to add soluble fiber, often from psyllium seeds, to the diet.

Regular exercise can help with constipation and improve your health in other ways. Look into support groups, stress reduction methods or counseling if you think they might be helpful. Be careful about using laxatives, anti-diarrhea or other over-the-counter medicines to treat yourself. They can cause problems if misused. Other kinds of medicines sometimes make IBS symptoms worse, too. 4

Medicines sometimes used for IBS symptoms include:

  • fiber supplements and occasional use of laxatives (for constipation)

  • antispasmodics—drugs that control colon muscle spasms and help with diarrhea and pain

  • tranquilizers and antidepressants to help with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions for use of all medicines. Some medicines including laxatives can be habit-forming, and all drugs have side effects. Tell your doctor about any over-the-counter medicines that you use. New drugs are being developed for IBS—ask your doctor about new treatment options. 4

1. excerpt from Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children: NIDDK
2. excerpt from Irritable Bowel Syndrome: NIDDK
3. excerpt from IBS: NIDDK
4. excerpt from Irritable Bowel Syndrome: NWHIC

Last revision: May 30, 2003

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