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Oceanside, CA

Irritable bowel syndrome in La Jolla, CA

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What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a set of symptoms that impact your digestive system. It's a common but uncomfortable gastrointestinal disorder. People with IBS have excessive gas, abdominal pain, and cramps.

Who is at risk for developing IBS?

The condition usually occurs in individuals in their late teens to early 40s. Women can be twice as likely as men to get IBS. IBS might happen to multiple family members.

You might be at greater risk if you have:

  • Family history of IBS
  • Psychological stress, tension, or anxiety
  • Food intolerance
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Severe digestive tract infection

What triggers IBS?

If you have IBS, you may have noticed that certain things trigger symptoms. Typical triggers include some foods and medication. Psychological stress can also be a trigger. Some researchers suggest that IBS is the gut's response to life's stressors.

What are the sources of IBS?

Researchers don't specifically know what leads to IBS. They think a combination of factors can lead to IBS, including:

  • Dysmotility: Problems with how your GI muscles contract and move food through the GI tract.
  • Visceral hypersensitivity: Extra-sensitive nerves in the GI tract.
  • Brain-gut dysfunction: Miscommunication between nerves in the brain and gut.

What are IBS symptoms?

Symptoms of IBS consist of:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps, typically in the lower half of the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Bowel movements that are harder or looser than normal
  • Diarrhea, constipation or rotating between the two
  • Excess gas
  • Mucus in your poop (may look whitish)

Women with IBS may find that symptoms flare up during their periods. These symptoms commonly occur over and over, which can make you feel stressed or upset. As you discover management methods and gain control over flare-ups, you'll begin to feel better, physically and mentally.

How is IBS diagnosed?

If you've been having uncomfortable GI symptoms, see your healthcare provider. The first step in diagnosing IBS is a medical history and a physical exam. Your provider will ask you about your symptoms:

  • Do you have pain related to bowel movements?
  • Do you notice a change in how frequently you have a bowel movement?
  • Has there been a change in how your poop looks?
  • How frequently do you have symptoms?
  • When did your symptoms start?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • Have you been sick or had a stressful event in your life recently?

Depending on your symptoms, you may require other tests to confirm a diagnosis. Blood tests, stool samples and X-rays can help rule out other conditions that resemble IBS.

What is IBS treatment?

No particular therapy works for everyone, but most individuals with IBS can find a treatment that works for them. Your doctor will customize your IBS treatment plan for your needs. Typical treatment options consist of dietary as well as lifestyle adjustments. A dietitian can help you create a diet that fits your life.

Many individuals find that with these changes, symptoms improve:

Dietary changes:

  • Increase fiber in your diet-- eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts.
  • Include supplemental fiber to your diet, such as Metamucil ® or Citrucel ®. Drink plenty of water-- eight 8-ounce glasses per day.
  • Avoid caffeine (from coffee, chocolate, teas and sodas).
  • Limit cheese and milk. Lactose intolerance is more prevalent in people with IBS. Be sure to get calcium from other sources, such as broccoli, spinach, salmon or supplements.
  • Try the low FODMAP diet, an eating plan that can help improve symptoms.

Activity changes:

  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Try relaxation techniques.
  • Eat smaller meals more often.
  • Note the foods you consume so you can figure out which foods trigger IBS flare-ups. Common triggers are red peppers, green onions, red wine, wheat and cow's milk.

Medical changes:.

  • Your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications if you have depression and anxiety along with significant abdominal pain.
  • Other medicines can help with diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain.
  • Probiotics may be an option for you. These "good bacteria" can help improve symptoms.

Speak with your doctor if your symptoms don't improve. You may need more tests to see if an underlying condition is causing the symptoms.

For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in La Jolla, California, please visit our website at or give us a call at (760) 274-2377

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