You know that feeling when you really, really have to go to the bathroom, but can’t? Or the opposite, you can’t leave the bathroom for fear of the discomfort, pain and embarrassment of your unpleasant issues?
We all get them on occasion. But when they persist, it’s not unlikely you’ve got irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Unpleasant, yes. But it’s more common than you might think. Roughly 15% of Americans complain of irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms include:
While irritable bowel syndrome can strike anyone, you’re more at risk if you’re a woman, have a family history of IBS, history of physical, sexual or psychological trauma or are prone to depression, headaches or fibromyalgia.
Irritable bowel syndrome is twice as common in women as in men, and curiously, research links IBS to emotional trauma and history of abuse.
This article is an introduction to IBS medicine. Remember that it’s advisable to address the underlying issues that cause your symptoms. IBS medicine is a short-term solution, to reduce your symptoms, within a comprehensive strategy to identify and address your IBS triggers.
Antidiarrheals – Lomotil and Imodium slow movements through the intestines and can relieve diarrhea.
Bile acid and binding agents – As the name implies, these hinder bile acids from aggravating the colon and can slow stool passage.
Lotronex – An IBS medicine for women, Lotronex can slow stool movements and bring relief.
Amitiza – Also called Lubiprostone, Amitiza increases fluids in the intestines, which encourages stool passage.
Osmotic laxatives – Products including Milk of Magnesia and lactulose are non-absorbable sugars that retain and encourage fluid to the intestine.
Stimulant laxatives – Like osmotic laxatives, stimulants relieve constipation with stool movements, but they do it in different ways. Stimulants irritate the intestinal lining, and while effective, can cause dependence for future bowel movements. Use laxatives, osmotic or stimulant, only with doctor-approval, and for short-term use.
Antispasmodics – Products including Bentyl can relieve spasms in the intestines and reduce pain and cramping.
While pharmaceutical remedies can relieve IBS symptoms on a short-term basis, estimates suggest that up to 50% of patients with IBS symptoms pursue alternative IBS treatments. They include:
Probiotics – The “good” bacteria. Probiotics are living micro-organisms thought to benefit their host carrier. Studies indicate that probiotics in yogurts and dietary supplements may encourage healthy digestive function and alleviate, or at least reduce, IBS symptoms.
Peppermint oil – A potent herbal remedy, peppermint oil is a popular IBS treatment and is widely available with enteric coating, which protects against stomach acid and delivers ingredients to the intestines for maximum absorption.
Iberogast – A multi-herbal extract, there is evidence that Iberogast can relieve abdominal pain and related IBS symptoms.
Alternative IBS treatments aren’t without side effects. Peppermint oil, for example, is not recommended for pregnant women.
Remember also that IBS medicine, pharmaceutical and alternative, is a short-term solution, within a comprehensive strategy to address the underlying causes of IBS. Always consult with your doctor before starting an IBS treatment. Keep a journal as well, of what triggers your IBS symptoms, and frame your IBS treatment strategy around them.