Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long-term (chronic) but manageable condition. Treatment will depend on the types of symptoms you have and their severity, as well as how they affect your daily life, and will likely involve changes to your lifestyle. It is important that you work closely with your health professional to create a treatment plan that will meet your needs. Learn all you can about your condition so you can effectively communicate concerns and questions to your health professional.
No single type of treatment for irritable bowel syndrome works best for everyone. You and your health professional will need to work together to determine what may be triggering your symptoms. It will be necessary for you to adapt your lifestyle to best deal with your symptoms and still carry on with your daily activities. Let your health professional know if parts of your treatment are not helping your symptoms.
For some people who have IBS, certain foods may trigger symptoms. The following suggestions may help prevent or relieve some IBS symptoms:
Limit your intake of fatty foods. Fats increase gut sensations, which can make abdominal pain seem worse.
If diarrhea is your main symptom, limit dairy products, fruit, or the artificial sweetener sorbitol.
Increasing fiber in your diet may help relieve constipation.
Avoiding foods such as beans, cabbage, or uncooked cauliflower or broccoli can help relieve bloating or gas.
Getting regular, vigorous exercise (such as swimming, jogging, or brisk walking) may help reduce tension and make your bowels more regular.
Medications such as loperamide (Imodium) for diarrhea, tegaserod (Zelnorm) for constipation, or antianxiety agents such as paroxetine (Paxil) may be used along with lifestyle changes to manage symptoms of IBS.
If stress triggers your symptoms, some form of psychological therapy or stress management may help you deal more positively with stress and help prevent or reduce stress-related IBS episodes.
Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) usually involves long-term management of your symptoms. It is important that you have a good working relationship with your health professional to monitor your symptoms and identify changes in your diet and lifestyle that can help relieve the symptoms. Keeping a journal of your symptoms can help you identify triggers that make symptoms worse.
Be especially aware of significant changes in symptoms, such as the appearance of blood in your stools, increased pain, severe fever, or unexplained weight loss. If any of these occur, your health professional may want to conduct additional tests to determine whether there is another cause for your IBS.
In treating chronic IBS, it is important that you maintain the changes to lifestyle and diet that relieve symptoms. Quitting smoking, avoiding caffeine and foods that make symptoms worse, and getting regular exercise should all be permanent parts of your daily routine.
You will likely continue to take medications to treat your symptoms.
Because IBS often results from a combination of physical and stress-related factors, a treatment approach that addresses both these causes will be most successful. In addition to treating constipation or diarrhea with medications and changes to diet and lifestyle, stress management or other psychological therapy should be a major part of your treatment plan.
If your symptoms get worse, your health professional will likely conduct more tests to determine whether there is another cause for your symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) does not lead to more serious conditions, such as cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, but a person with IBS may also have one of these illnesses.
Your health professional may also want you to try different medications, or different dosages of your current medications, if your symptoms are not responding to treatment
Revised: 11/03/09. Copyright © 2006 Clinical Research Associates of Tidewater. All rights reserved.