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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

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Individuals diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, suffer with symptoms for at least six months. Diagnostic criteria include experiencing discomfort or pain a minimum of three times a month each month. Having a bowel movement often relieves the pain. Individuals notice the pain accompanies stools having differences in appearance, consistency and regularity. The syndrome may affect people having sensitivities to particular foods. Processed baked goods, cereals and fried fast food snacks may trigger symptoms. Some people have symptoms after consuming alcohol, caffeinated or carbonated beverages. Consuming artificial sweeteners, dairy products or certain fruits or vegetables may also cause problems.

Symptoms range from mild to severe and often appear shortly after consuming a meal containing suspect foods. Stress and menses exacerbate symptoms for many. Pain is one of the most distinguishable features of the syndrome. Discomfort usually accompanies bloating and increased intestinal gas. The discomfort may only occur in the lower abdomen or generally over the entire abdominal region. Some people experience the discomfort as a backache. Individuals may also notice visible mucus in stools.

Instead of evacuating bowels once daily or every other day, people with IBS experience constipation, diarrhea or a combination of the two. Diarrhea may occur three or more times a day and produce loose to watery stools. Individuals experiencing constipation may have stools less than three times a week. The stools are often small, hard and thin. Constipation may precede episodes of diarrhea. Individuals suffering from the constipation symptoms of IBS often resort to laxatives for relief.

Layers of smooth muscle line intestinal walls. These muscles contract and relax in a rhythmic manner, which moves food from the stomach through the intestine and to the rectum. Health care provider refer to this rhythmic movement as peristalsis. During diarrhea, these contractions occur more frequently and with increased strength. When food passes quickly, the intestine does not have adequate time for fluid absorption and the liquid passes with the stool. Bloating from gas also occurs. IBS associated with chronic bouts of diarrhea may cause weight loss.

During bouts of constipation, the opposite process occurs. Food moves slowly because of infrequent and weak contractions. As food passes more slowly, the intestine has increases time for absorbing fluid similar to a sponge. By the time bowels evacuate, the fluid loss creates hardened stools.

Patients suffering from IBS might also experience a range of additional symptoms. Some people complain of an unpleasant oral taste. Individuals may become fatigued or have insomnia. Anxiety, depression or headaches may also occur. Some people develop heart rhythm irregularities. Patients might also develop urinary tract symptoms that are similar to having a bladder infection.

Dr. Gillian Hart is a Scientific Director for YorkTest Laboratories who specialise in food intolerance testing to help identify causes for wheat intolerance symptoms and bloating after eating symptoms. For more information visit or call 0800 074 6185.

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