IBS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

IBS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is also known as Spastic Colon.

To me, it's personally known as toilet syndrome. This is because sometimes I have to run to the bathroom for no reason. Those with IBS are unfortunately very well aware of this scenario...
There are a few theories on how you may have gotten IBS. Again, the causes of IBS are not conclusive and the reasons may be a combination of many.

You may have IBS because you went through a course of antibiotics (as treatment for a bacterial infection) or antivirals (as a treatment for a virus infection). These antibiotics and antivirals are strong drugs that kill and inhibit the growth of bacteria and viruses. Inevitably, they also get rid of some good things in your body.

You have have IBS due to signal issues between your brain and your gut.
The medical and scientific community have not found conclusive evidence on what exactly causes IBS.

So far, a few contributing factors are being researched. These include stress, family history, diet, and/or a disturbance to the gut flora (i.e. heavy dose of antibiotics or sickness).

In my case, I believe I accidentally ate expired pasta sauce that was in my fridge for months. I have no idea why I never noticed that. I started getting sick and having diarrhea and later realized that the pasta sauce was the culprit. However, by that time, nothing has ever been the same. I also developed lactose intolerance a few months before the pasta sauce incident, so I think IBS was in the making during that whole time and I just wasn't aware of it.
IBS symptoms may include an unique mix of the following:
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • An alternating mix of diarrhea and constipation over a few days.
  • Gas.
  • Pain in the abdomen/stomach area.
  • Cramping in the abdomen/stomach area.
  • Discomfort in the abdomen/stomach area.
  • Bloating.
  • Feeling of indigestion.
  • Mucus in stool that is of whitish color.
  • A feeling that the stomach and digestive tract is always very active.
Probiotics are bacteria and yeasts that are alive.

We rely on billions and billions of these “good” bacteria to lead a healthy life. Our digestive system are especially reliant on these good bacteria and without them, we would not be able to function. Our gut contains a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria, and they keep each other in check. Whenever this balance is upset, we can encounter indigestion, diarrhea, or other symptoms.

Probiotics support our immune system as well. Over 70% of our immune system can be found in our digestive tracts. Through my own experience, probiotics play a big part in recovering from IBS and its symptoms.
You can read hundreds of websites but at the end of a day, only a qualified doctor can advise you on what you may have exactly.

If you are encountering some of these symptoms, please visit a doctor as soon as you can! Many of these digestive disorders have similar symptoms that only lab tests and medical consultations could decipher.

My gastroenterologist ordered many lab tests and interrogated me on all of my symptoms during the prior months before I visited him to get an understanding of what exactly is the issue.
The best way of course is to visit your Primary Care Physician or a qualified gastroenterologist.

However, if you indeed have IBS, the discomfort of your symptoms may improve after a bowel movement. Your symptoms may also improve or worsen based on your diet. You may feel more pain in your abdomen or have more diarrhea or constipation on the days or weeks that you are stressed out. You may notice a change in your bowel movement frequency. The physical appearance of your stool may also be different after you have IBS.
In a way, yes. Currently, there is no way to medically diagnose a person as having IBS. There is no test to conduct that will show if you have IBS or not.

IBS is diagnosed by eliminating all other possibilities. It is a diagnosis of elimination. After everything else is eliminated, if your symptoms are consistent with IBS, then you probably have IBS.
Based on my readings and research, the medical and scientific community have not found conclusive evidence on what exactly causes IBS.
IBS-D means that your primary IBS symptom is diarrhea, as opposed to constipation.
IBS-C means that your primary IBS symptom is constipation, as opposed to diarrhea.
This will really be up to your primary care physician or gastroenterologist based on his or her assessment of your symptoms and health history. Everyone is different.

My gastroenterologist performed blood tests, stool tests, breath test, and a flexible sigmoidoscopy to eliminate all other possibilities before concluding that I have IBS.
A gastroenterologist is a doctor who is specialized in the field of gastroenterology.

Gastroenterology is the study of gastrointestinal tract and liver diseases. Our digestive system and the organs surrounding them are complicated. Simply put, gastroenterologists are experts in our digestive system, as well as the organs that support our complicated digestion process.

Since IBS is a disease related to the digestive system, oftentimes a gastroenterologist can best guide you towards diagnosis and symptom relief.
High-gas foods include:
  • Beans.
  • Some vegetables such as broccoli, onions, carrots, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Some fruits such as apples, pears, and raisins.
  • Carbonated drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, etc.
High-gas foods may exacerbate or worsen your IBS symptoms. It is definitely something to eliminate, at least on a trial basis, to see if that will mitigate or lessen your IBS symptoms.
Good question. You have probably been hearing about "gluten-free" options either at restaurants or grocery stores.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat products (wheat, barley, rye, and spelt). Those with IBS tend to have a weaker ability to break down gluten once it enters the digestive system. Food containing gluten may exacerbate or worsen your IBS symptoms. It is definitely something to eliminate, at least on a trial basis, to see if that will mitigate or lessen your IBS symptoms.
FODMAPs is a diet that I started following after being diagnosed with IBS. FODMAPs include a bunch of carbohydrates that those with IBS cannot quite tolerate or digest.

FODMAPs is an acronym derived from "Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols." The low FODMAPs diet was developed by a research team at Monash University in Australia.
Fiber supplements help those with IBS-C (Constipation) with more regularity.

Everyone's body is different. Given how complex the digestive system is, different people will react in various ways.

A low-FODMAPs diet might help some mitigate their IBS symtoms but to others, it is no help. Fiber supplements might help those with IBS-C (Constipation) but worsen the IBS symptoms for those with IBS-D (Diarrhea).

I have read through many blogs, forum posts, and websites, and I have seen how diverse the reactions are to different food. Some folks with IBS are okay with gluten (pasta, wheat beer). To others, gluten is the cryptonite.

It is important to note that once you get diagnosed with IBS, you have to be patient with your body. Closely observe and feel how your digestive system reacts with your food intake and dietary choices. Your digestive system will tell you what it can take and cannot take.

One thing I tell others whenever they want to understand IBS and how it impacts me is that my digestive system is in a way damaged. Now I am working closely with it to bring it back to nromal as much as possible. Slow and steady.
Correlation is not causation.

Stress, depression, emotion burden, and other mentally-related issues does not directly cause IBS. However, it is well-known that stress exacerbates or worsens IBS symptoms, especially for those with diarrhea. In fact, it's almost like a vicious cycle. The more you stress about not having diarrhea attack you in the middle of a presentation or meeting, the more stressed out you are, and the more your digestive system is going to lash out.

Some people have reported that stress management (yoga, breathing exercises, massage, therapist, etc.) have helped their IBS symptoms.
Yes. Although, in my opinion, medications currently available are not effective in "curing" IBS yet. They just mitigate or lessen the symptoms, if at all, and there is a good chance that these symptoms will return with time.   Prescription medications for IBS include:
  • Alosetron (commonly known as Lotronex).
  • Eluxadoline (commonly known as Viberzi).
  • Rifaximin (commonly known as Xifaxan).
Again, solutions vary for different people.

Peppermint oil has been known to help alleviate IBS symptoms. Others swear by ginger by placing it in broth that they cook themselves.

I have started drinking mint tea. I can't say that I feel any difference (and if I do, they may be mostly psychological) but it's a nice addition to my routine.

Regular exercising can also help lessen the impacts of IBS symptoms. Routine exercises can help strengthen your digestive system and promote regularity. Swimming is one of the activities I would recommend if there is a pool near you since it tends to gently exercise almost all parts of your body.