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Irritable bowel syndrome in women (IBS) with symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, abdominal pain and cramping is a widely prevailing common colon disorder . A recent survey showed that out of 100 people affected, 75 of them were women.

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Irritable bowel syndrome in women may give rise to increased irritability and discomfort, but it doesn’t cause any severe damage to colon.

Most of women who suffer from IBS, improve themselves, once they learn to keep the signs in control. Practically very few women suffer from severe symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome.

Unlike Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are considered as serious diseases, Irritable bowel syndrome does not cause colorectal cancer, inflammation or cause any damage to intestinal tissues. A woman can keep the Irritable bowel syndrome under control, by regulating her lifestyle, diet and stress.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in women

Signs of IBS vary from one woman to another and some symptoms may resemble those elicited by some other diseases. Some of the common symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome in women are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation or just diarrhea or constipation
  • Cramping and/or abdominal pain
  • Bloated-like feeling
  • Mucus in stool
  • Flatulence

These mild signs may turn severe and disabling, if it occurs with other serious diseases. As such one should consult the doctor for remedy. In few cases, Irritable bowel syndrome in women occurs and disappears completely. In many cases it takes a turn for the worse and develops into a chronic condition.

Some of the complications of Irritable bowel syndrome in women include:

  • The overall quality of life is disturbed. One may not be able to keep the promises of an engagement or meeting with friends, family or attend social functions.
  • The sex life may be unappealing and painful.
  • It may inject a disinterest in life and sometimes it may result in depression.

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in women

  • The exact causes for Irritable bowel syndrome in women are still unknown. The inside walls of intestine are lined up with layer like formation of muscles that move in a particular pattern of contraction and relaxation, which allow the movements of food through the intestinal tract to the rectum.
  • If the usual pattern of muscle contraction and relaxation is altered, it causes gas bloating and diarrhea, when the food is forced more quickly through the intestine. When the food passage is slowed down, the opposite effects happen such as hard and dry stool, causing constipation, abnormality in nervous system, stretching of intestinal wall due to gas formation and uncomfortable colon.
  • Serotonin levels, which are the chemical messengers of the brain also plays a role in abnormalities of digestive system, causing Irritable bowel syndrome in women.
  • Absence of right balance of good bacteria in intestine can also cause Irritable bowel syndrome in women.

A strong reaction to the gas or pressure in intestine caused by certain foods, medications or the stimuli of emotions and stress can also cause Irritable bowel syndrome in women.

  • Stress: Stress doesn’t cause the symptoms, but it can trigger the syndrome and worsen it.
  • Foods: For many women, consuming chocolate, milk and alcohol can cause constipation or diarrhea. Carbonated beverages, some vegetables and some raw fruits can cause bloating and discomfort in women affected by Irritable bowel syndrome. A complete and thorough study on food allergies or intolerance has not been done as yet. Experiencing bloating and cramping may not be due to the syndrome, but it may be due to the intolerance of the body to some foods.
  • Hormones: Scientists believe that hormonal changes induce irritable bowel syndrome in women. It is seen that the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are worse during the menstrual periods.

Some of the risk factors that increase the vulnerability to IBS in women are:

  • The risks of irritable bowel syndrome in women are higher, if they are young. Half of the women folk who are young suffer from this syndrome, right from the age of 35.
  • Family history where the parents have IBS, the risk of irritable bowel syndrome in women is at an increased level. It is not clear whether it is due to the genes or due to environmental hazards or due to the influence of both factors.

Treatment  for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in women

As the causes for the syndrome are not clear, the treatment is given to cure the symptoms.

If the symptoms are milder, one can control the signs by self management. If the syndrome is severe the doctor may recommend the following medications:

  • Anticholinergic medicines: For giving relief from painful bowl spasms and to control diarrhea, doctor may administer anticholinerics. But it may cause constipation.
  • Antidepressant medicines: For women with signs of depression in addition to irritable bowel syndrome, the doctor may administer tricyclic antidepressant or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which would contain the depression and the symptoms. If the women suffer from diarrhea and stomach pain, then the doctor may administer lower doses. But these medicines have the side effects of drowsiness and constipation.
  • Doctor may advice to avoid carbonated beverages, raw fruits, salads, and vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli to control the bloating and gas formation.
  • For easing constipation, the doctor may give the fiber supplements viz. psyllium or methylcellulose with fluids.
  • Counseling: The doctor may advise the affected women to undergo psychotherapy and counseling, in case medications fail to treat depression.
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