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Oceanside, CA

Irritable Bowel Syndrome in La Mesa, CA

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What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a group of symptoms that affect 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 people in their late teens to early 40s. Women can be twice as likely than 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
  • Major digestive tract infection

What triggers IBS?

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

What are the sources of IBS?

Researchers do not specifically know what leads to IBS. They believe 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, usually in the lower half of the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Bowel movements that are harder or looser than normal
  • Diarrhea, constipation or alternating between the two
  • Excess gas
  • Mucus in your poop (may look whitish)

Women with IBS might find that symptoms flare up during their periods. These symptoms often occur repeatedly, which can make you feel stressed or upset. As you discover management techniques 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 doctor. The first step in diagnosing IBS is a medical history and a physical exam. Your doctor 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 begin?
  • What medications 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 eliminate other disorders that mimic IBS.

What is IBS treatment?

No particular therapy works for everyone, but most people with IBS can find a treatment that works for them. Your healthcare provider will tailor your IBS treatment plan for your needs. Regular treatment options consist of dietary and lifestyle adjustments. A dietitian can help you create a diet that fits your life.

Lots of people find that with these changes, symptoms improve:

Dietary changes:

  • Increase fiber in your diet-- consume more fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts
  • Add 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 individuals 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
  • Do not smoke
  • Try relaxation strategies
  • Eat smaller meals more often
  • Note the foods you eat so you can figure out which foods trigger IBS flare-ups. Typical triggers are red peppers, green onions, red wine, wheat and cow's milk.

Medical changes:

  • Your health care provider 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.

Talk to your doctor if your symptoms don't improve. You may require 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 Mesa, California, please visit our website at or give us a call at (760) 274-2377.

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