Also called as Functional Bowel Disease, Mucous Colitis, Spastic Colon or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Irritable Colon Syndrome is considered to be a chronic gastrointestinal disease that causes symptoms like bloating, abdominal gas, abdominal cramping, stomach pain and irregular bowel habits.
Irritable Colon Syndrome is more common in women and usually affects individuals below 35 years of age. The condition does not have a particular cause and is neither infectious nor contagious. Nevertheless, it can cause extreme pain and discomfort to the person in question.
Different Categories of Irritable Colon Syndrome
The different variants of Irritable Colon Syndrome can be classified into three categories. These include:
The individual in question would suffer from frequent bouts of diarrhea and would need to go to the toilet immediately after meals. He/she would not be able to control the urge to use the toilet and would probably suffer from severe diarrhea early in the mornings. In certain cases, he/she could also suffer from incontinence.
In this case, the individual in question would suffer from constipation in between normal bowel movements. The condition is usually accompanied by stomach and abdominal pain, and abdominal gas.
Alternating Diarrhea and Constipation
The individual in question would suffer from constipation and diarrhea at alternating levels. The condition would be accompanied by abdominal gas, cramps and incontinence.
Common Symptoms of Irritable Colon Syndrome
Irritable Colon Syndrome is known to cause different symptoms in different individuals. However, there are some common symptoms that seem to affect every individual who suffers from the condition.
Some of the most common symptoms of Irritable Colon Syndrome include abdominal discomfort, abdominal gas, abdominal cramps (usually reduce after a bowel movement), constipation and diarrhea at alternating periods, incontinence, bloating, abdominal distension, flatulence, irregular stool consistency and frequency, and presence of mucus in stools etc.
Need for Medical Help
Although Irritable Colon Syndrome is not an infectious condition, the individual in question would need to consult the doctor if the symptoms are severe or are accompanied by other unusual signs (usually an indication of another more serious problem). Some of these warning signs include bloody stools, black (tarry) stools, bloody urine, vomiting, nausea, stool incontinence during sleep, weight loss and fever etc.
Effective Remedies for Irritable Colon Syndrome
There is no known cause for Irritable Colon Syndrome. However, there are certain remedies that can help deal with the symptoms of the condition. Given below are some of the more common (and very effective) remedies for Irritable Colon Syndrome.
Maintaining a Food Diary/Chart
Irritable Colon Syndrome can be caused by certain foods. In this case, the individual in question can keep a food chart or diary and maintain a list of all the foods he/she eats on a daily basis. He/she would also need to jot down the intervals when he/she suffers from the symptoms of Irritable Colon Syndrome.
With time (and careful plotting), the individual would be able to zero in on those foods that seem to cause the condition. He/she can then experiment by avoiding those foods completely or taking them in small quantities. This particular remedy would easily pave the way for the other food-related remedies mentioned below.
Foods that need to be avoided
Certain foods can cause Irritable Colon Syndrome or worsen the symptoms of an existing condition. If so, the individual would need to stay away from these foods until he/she recovers from the condition.
Some of the more common foods that are associated with Irritable Colon Syndrome include dairy products (especially in cases of lactose intolerance), legumes, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts and brussels etc., fatty foods, sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, caffeinated products and chewing gum etc. Avoiding these foods completely or limiting their intake could help offer relief from the symptoms of Irritable Colon Syndrome.
Foods that need to be included
Individuals with Irritable Colon Syndrome need to include certain foods in their diet in order to get relief from the condition and its symptoms. Some of the more common foods that are recommended for individuals with Irritable Colon Syndrome include foods high in carbohydrates like rice, whole grains and pasta. Low fat foods are also considered effective for Irritable Colon Syndrome.
The importance of Dietary Fiber
Foods high in dietary fiber are considered very effective for individuals with Irritable Colon Syndrome. The fiber in the food would expand the digestive tract, making it easier for the food to pass through. Fiber also aids in digestion and regularizes bowel movements. This in turn can reduce symptoms like abdominal gas, constipation or diarrhea associated with Irritable Colon Syndrome.
Note: Dietary Fiber needs to be increased in small quantities as a sudden increase in fiber levels would trigger abdominal gas and bloating.
Water and its effect on Irritable Colon Syndrome
Individuals with Irritable Colon Syndrome are required to drink plenty of water. Water aids in the passage of food inside the digestive tract and helps provide relief from issues like abdominal gas and constipation.
The symptoms of Irritable Colon Syndrome can be aggravated by carbonated drinks like sodas. Therefore, individuals with the condition should refrain from drinking sodas and other forms of fizzy drinks.
Change in Eating Habits
Eating too much during a meal can aggravate the symptoms of Irritable Colon Syndrome. Individuals with the condition are advised to reduce the amount of food they eat during meals and increase the number of meals instead. This would essentially mean eating 5-6 smaller meals every day instead of 3 huge meals.
Individuals with Irritable Colon Syndrome are also asked to eat their meals slowly. This would give the stomach and digestive tract ample time to accommodate the food and digest it, thereby reducing conditions like abdominal gas, abdominal cramps, bloating and diarrhea.
Change in Lifestyle Habits
Individuals with Irritable Colon Syndrome would need to let go of a few habits in order to get relief from the condition and its symptoms. These include letting go of habits like:
Smoking can dehydrate the body and aggravate the symptoms of Irritable Colon Syndrome, mainly constipation. It is considered wise to either give up smoking altogether or reduce it to a minimum.
Drinking alcohol can also dehydrate the body and cause issues like constipation and abdominal gas. Therefore individuals with the condition would need to stop drinking altogether or reduce alcohol consumption to a minimum.
Funny as it may sound, the surprising fact is that Irritable Colon Syndrome can also be triggered by stress. Doctors usually advice patients with the condition to manage their stress levels in order to get relief from the symptoms related to it.
Although there are many ways in which stress can be managed, the more common ways include eating regularly, exercising properly, breathing deeply, practicing yoga and opting for relaxation techniques etc.
Severe cases of Irritable Colon Syndrome would need prescription medications. In these cases, individuals with the condition would need to get checked by a qualified physician for the condition and other possible anomalies related to it. In case the doctor detects another medical anomaly, he/she would recommend treatment for the same before proceeding with the treatment for Irritable Colon Syndrome. If the possibility of an underlying problem is ruled out, the doctor would prescribe specific medications that would work in par with the individuals’ body conditions and constraints, and provide relief from Irritable Colon Syndrome and its symptoms.
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