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How IBS Can Affect your Quality of Life and How to Prevent it

How IBS Can Affect your Quality of Life and How to Prevent it

Irritable bowel syndrome, while not life-threatening, can be a real hindrance to your daily routine and sense of wellbeing.

Here we look at its effects and how to manage the associated symptoms.

Overview

Irritable Bowel Syndrome otherwise known as “IBS“, can be a real deterrent for a life comfortably lived. The syndrome itself is a functional disorder affecting both adults and children alike.

It can cause very uncomfortable symptoms and can truly affect one’s livelihood to the point of real anguish.

The use of ‘functional’ to describe this disorder refers to the fact that there is not something wrong with the physical tissue of the digestive system.

Instead, irritable bowel syndrome systems are the result of changes in the functioning of the digestive system.

While irritable bowel syndrome is not life-threatening, it can disrupt many of a sufferer’s day-to-day activities to the point where lives need to be adapted around the syndrome.

Looking at this positively, it does not increase one’s chances of developing colon conditions such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

The disruption to daily life still persists and certainly warrants lifestyle changes and medical intervention to live a more comfortable, symptom-free life.

Speaking of symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome presents with a number of symptoms associated with the gastrointestinal system such as abdominal pain, cramping, food intolerance, bloating, and increased gas.

In short, irritable bowel syndrome upsets normal bowel habits and results in general stomach discomfort.

None of the above warrant hospital admission, unless it’s very serious, but it does cause a significant negative impact on one’s life from your work schedule to your ability to attend social events with friends and family.

In this article, we will start our look into IBS by exploring the causes of the syndrome followed by delving into the symptoms shown by those suffering from it.

Lastly but probably most importantly, we will look into methods we can use to prevent the onset of irritable bowel syndrome and prevent all the associated negative effects thereof.

ibs affect of life - How IBS Can Affect your Quality of Life and How to Prevent it

 

Why Does Irritable Bowel Syndrome Occur?

Gut bacteria.

Those two words carry the weight of the entire explanation of irritable bowel syndrome and the gastrointestinal tract as a whole in terms of its health and optimum functioning.

Several factors trigger IBS but the chief culprit is an underlying change in the gut bacteria environment.

A number of other factors including the alteration of the gastrointestinal tract motility, and abnormal nervous system signals all contribute to the possible onset of IBS symptoms.

It’s important to limit factors that may result in these alterations and changes in gut bacteria. If limiting is not possible then it is important to at least understand what is going on to help better manage the symptoms.

That said, let us take a look into a broad range of factors that may predispose one to IBS and the related symptoms.

  1. Stress

Psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression have been found in many people with IBS. Whether the two are a result of causation or a simple correlation is unknown with IBS.

In other words, psychological conditions may not be a direct cause of IBS, but research may find that it increases the probability that you will develop IBS.

  1. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is the term used when one has too much bacteria in one’s intestine. While it is great to have a large gut bacteria environment, things start to become unhealthy when the gut reaches a state of being considered ‘overgrown’.

This indicates a shift in the balance of your small intestine’s environment. SIBO has its own list of risk factors ranging from diabetes to having a small intestine with an unusual shape.

In essence, SIBO usually starts when your small intestine doesn’t move food along the way it should. This can cause bacteria to grow and stay in an area too long. An imbalance can then occur if the “good” bacteria is hindered by the proliferation of harmful bacteria.

  1. Food sensitivities

This is most likely caused due to poor absorption of sugars or acids in food. The result is irritation of the bowels and typically leads to IBS symptoms.

 irritible bowel syndrome - How IBS Can Affect your Quality of Life and How to Prevent it

How Irritable Bowel Syndrome Affects Your Life

Generally speaking, IBS involves changes in the frequency and physical form of bowel movements. It is normally associated with lower abdominal pain as well.

Pain and cramping happen to be the most common symptom and a key factor in diagnosing the presence of IBS. The cause of this, explored later in this article, is related to changes in a patient’s microbiome.

Diarrhoea affects about one-third of those suffering from IBS making it another common sign of IBS. This in contrast to a less intuitive sign of IBS, namely constipation. In fact, constipation affects nearly half of people with IBS.

The root cause lies in altered communication between the brain and the bowel causing a change in bowel movement speed.

Diarrhoea and constipation can severely disrupt your plans and normal schedule. Routine trips to the shops or meetings may become stressful arrangements due to the often sudden arrival of IBS symptoms.

One of the most annoying reported symptoms of IBS is bloating. Most people with IBS report this making it an expected symptom when dealing with irritable bowel syndrome.

The above signs and symptoms are quite consistent across patients with high probabilities of occurring in patients with IBS. The next couple of symptoms vary more wildly among patients.

Fatigue has been attributed to IBS with adults finding themselves low on energy at work and in social interactions which can have a negative impact not only for you but also for those around you.

Patients with IBS have also found that their sleep suffers – difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently, and feeling unrested in the morning have all been reported. In general, patients have found their energy levels and restful states much lower with the onset of irritable bowel syndrome.

This could result in lower productivity, less satisfying relationships and reduced work output.

managing irritable bowel syndrome - How IBS Can Affect your Quality of Life and How to Prevent it

 

Preventing and Managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Treating IBS is a matter of installing lifestyle and dietary changes that are recommended by a doctor.

This means that a holistic approach is required to deal with the many facets of one’s biology and lifestyle that may be causing the patient’s IBS.

In general, lifestyle changes and recommendations about what you should eat may be combined with medicines, probiotics and mental health therapy, depending on the patient’s particular risk profile.

Patients need to heed the medical advice of their doctors when it comes to their specific situation. That said, here are a number of treatments that your doctor may recommend or extra treatments you could add to your treatment plan.

First, let’ look at several things you should certainly not do. Avoid doing this to help relieve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms:

  1. Delay or skip meals
  2. Eat meals too quickly
  3. Eat lots of processed or fatty food
  4. Eat more than three portions of fruit a day
  5. Drink more than three cups of coffee a day
  6. Drink lots of alcohol or fizzy drinks

In short, you want to try and avoid ingesting food and drink or engaging in behaviour that will place unnecessary stress on the gastrointestinal tract.

Now let’s take a look at some positive behaviours one can get into to lower the risk of irritable bowel syndrome onset.

  1. Exercise

A solution seemingly as old as modern medical advice itself, the benefits of exercise apply to IBS therapy as well.

Not only has it been shown to improve IBS symptoms, but it also has a well-known effect on anxiety and depression which are IBS risk factors.

Exercise has the potential to alleviate symptoms and lower the reoccurrence of IBS down the line.

  1. Set a Sleep Schedule

Our bodily functions are controlled by our biological clocks, or circadian rhythms. Gut functioning also follows this cycle.

As a result, if one’s sleep is disrupted, the gut may be suffering. It’s recommended to stick to a sleep schedule to help control fluctuations in gut irregularity.

If one is travelling across time zones, it may be worth taking some melatonin which can help regulate the circadian rhythm.

Consistency is key here. The upsides can be significant, not just for gut health but for one’s overall health as well.

 ibs and probiotics - How IBS Can Affect your Quality of Life and How to Prevent it

  1. Medication

Your doctor may prescribe certain medications to alleviate IBS symptoms and combat their reoccurrence.

An antihistamine may be given as this can help lower the histamine released in your gut due to an allergic reaction. This can lead to reduced inflammation and a resultant decrease in IBS symptoms.

Antidepressants in low doses have been shown to alleviate symptoms. Depending on the type of symptoms a patient is experiencing, different antidepressants may be prescribed.

Some help to inhibit the activity of nerves in the gut which helps to lower pain. In other cases, an antidepressant can be prescribed to speed up the gastrointestinal tract.

As mentioned earlier, IBS could be the result of an overgrowth of bacteria. In such cases, an antibiotic such as Rifaximin may be given by your doctor to inhibit the bacteria’s growth.

  1. Diet and lifestyle

There are several lifestyle changes that can help alleviate IBS symptoms. Another two worth mentioning here are probiotics and yoga.

Probiotics help to balance your gut microbiome. They’re referred to as the “good bacteria” and can be found in many food sources such as dairy products and fruit like bananas.

Including this in your diet can be a good idea to get your gut microbiome to a sustainably healthy position.

Yoga has been suggested to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. One way it may achieve this is by increasing serotonin levels thereby decreasing feelings of stress and anxiety.

 How IB can affect the quality of life 1 - How IBS Can Affect your Quality of Life and How to Prevent it

 

Summary

Irritable bowel syndrome, while not life-threatening, can be a major bump in the quest to living a comfortable, problem-free life.

Unfortunately, the symptoms associated with this mild disease can make that quest difficult.

Fortunately, lifestyle changes and careful dietary modifications can restrict the severity of IBS symptoms allowing patients with IBS to live a relatively healthy life.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GI tract conditions in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za and book your consultation today.

 

    DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

    The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

    Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    Those who suffer from Gastroesophageal reflux disease experience heartburn or acid indigestion.

    GERD, as it’s known, refers to a disorder of the digestive tract which affects the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) in particular.

    The LES muscle which is shaped like a ring can be found between the oesophagus and the stomach. It is this muscle that is largely responsible for GERD symptoms.

    The LES operates by stopping food and acidic stomach fluids from flowing back into the oesophagus.

    This function is performed by opening for food to pass into the stomach and then closing afterwards to prevent unwanted backflow.

    When the LES weakens or relaxes when it shouldn’t, stomach contents are able to go back up into the oesophagus and cause the associated symptoms such as heartburn, or acid indigestion.

    gerd symptoms and treatment - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

     

    Symptoms Expected with GERD

    Heartburn is an often-felt symptom for those suffering from GERD and is something familiar to many people. The feeling is characterized as a burning sensation in the chest.

    This pain starts behind one’s breastbone, almost behind the heart – hence the term “heartburn” – and moves up into the neck and throat.

    The length of time in which this particular sensation is felt can vary with time depending on one’s posture – lying down or bending over can worsen, or even cause, it – but may last up to two hours in some cases.

    People have reported feeling better after standing up if the heartburn sensation started while they were sitting or lying down so that may be an immediate, short-term solution to dealing with the pain.

    Medicinally, antacid tablets can be taken to help clear out the acid in the oesophagus and relieve one of the burning sensations.

    Additional GERD Symptoms

    Other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, besides the physical pain, can include a host of others such as:

    Night-time Acid Reflux Symptoms

    At night, due to the laying down posture, acid reflux is known to commonly occur.
    The angle makes it much more difficult for an already weakened sphincter to remain closed in the face of acid backflow.

    Night-time acid reflux presents with additional signs and symptoms including:

    • Poor sleep quality due to frequent disruptions
    • Asthma occurrence or worsening of an existing condition
    • Chronic cough
    • Laryngitis due to the acidic irritation from reflux

     gastro oesophageal reflux - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    When to See a Doctor

    Due to the physical location of the chief symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease – behind the heart.

    People experiencing GERD often mistake heartburn pain for actual heart pain thereby falsely self-diagnosing a heart disease or a heart attack.

    The difference cannot be told by you though so if you do experience this pain, it is always best to seek professional medical help to make a correct diagnosis and implement a treatment plan if necessary.

    One should also go see one’s doctor if symptoms are experienced several times a week, the symptoms are severe, one has difficulty breathing, or when over-the-counter medications are not working.

    gerd treatment - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux 

    Typical Treatments for GERD

    Treating GERD involves a combination of self-help measures, over the counter (OTC) medicines, and, in more severe cases, stronger prescription medicines.

    Self-help measures just involve more knowledge of food consumption habits such as eating smaller but more frequent meals, keeping to a healthy weight, not eating large meals late at night, and avoiding any food or drink that you know may trigger symptoms.

    By maintaining a healthy physique, less pressure is being put on the physiological system which allows it to perform at a more optimal level.

    When the body is healthy, things tend to work better throughout the biological system – gastrointestinal tract included.

    OTC medicine is only necessary when symptoms arise. However, long-term treatment may indeed be needed, and this may involve prescription medicine as determined by one’s doctor.

    Surgery is the last and most serious measure to be taken. It may be recommended by one’s doctor if medication is not preventing stomach acid from moving up into the oesophagus.

    Over-The-Counter Medications

     

    1. Antacids can be used to neutralize stomach acid. These don’t heal an inflamed oesophagus damaged by stomach acid though. It’s also important to note that overuse of certain antacids can cause unwanted side effects such as diarrhoea.

     2. H-2-receptor blockers are used to reduce acid production in the stomach. These don’t perform their intended functioning as quickly as antacids, but they do provide longer relief and may provide useful effects for up to 12 hours such as reducing the acid production.

    3.  Proton pump inhibitors perform two important functions in that they block acid production and heal the oesophagus. They are stronger acid blockers than H-2-receptor blocker and thus allow time for the oesophageal tissue to heal.

    These are available without a prescription from pharmacies. As with any medication, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before you take any new medicine.

     

    Prescription Medications

     

    1. Prescription-strength H-2 receptor blockers, while stronger and potentially more effective, carry extra risk with long-term use such as vitamin B-12 deficiency.
    1. Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors, as above, are stronger and potentially more effective will carrying the risk for side effects such as headache, nausea and vitamin B-12 deficiency with chronic use.
    2. LES-strengthening medication may reduce the frequency of LES relaxations thereby decreasing GERD symptoms, but it does come with the risk of side effects such as fatigue and nausea. 

    symptoms of gerd - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    Surgery and New Procedures

    Medication is normally enough to control GERD symptoms but where medication is undesirable or ineffective, a doctor may recommend one of the following procedures:

    1. A LINX device. This is essentially a ring of very small magnetic beads which is used to control GERD symptoms from flaring up. It does this by being wrapped around the junction of the stomach and oesophagus.

      The magnetic force between the beads then keeps the junction closed to refluxing acid but the force is weak enough to allow food through. The device can be inserted using minimally invasive surgery allowing for a quicker recovery time and less damage to surrounding tissue.

    2. Fundoplication. A laparoscopic procedure is used to wrap the top of the stomach around the less to tighten the muscle thereby preventing reflux. 
    3. Transoral incision-less fundoplication (TIF) is a new procedure whereby the LES is tightened by creating a partial wrap around the lower oesophagus using polypropylene faster.

      An endoscope is used to perform the procedure through the mouth which means no surgical incision is required. Picking this option means a faster recovery time and can be tolerated by a higher percentage of patients.

     

    Typical Symptoms of Gastro Oesophageal Reflux - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

     

    Summary

     

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease, while not commonly a serious disease. affects many people in the Western world today for a variety of reasons including increased obesity levels, poor dietary health, and increased risk factors such as alcohol and smoking.

    In essence, GERD symptoms are the consequence of a weakened LES but may be treated, in most cases, with OTC medication, lifestyle changes, and surgery if needed.

    Undergoing a lifestyle inspection and changing habits where applicable may mean the difference between continuously treating GERD symptoms and never having to deal with the problem of a lax lower oesophageal sphincter in the first place.

    Prevention is better than cure.

    But should you need a cure, we have you covered.

    For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GI tract conditions in Johannesburg, contact Dr Schneider at (011) 482-3010 or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za to book your consultation today.

     

    DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

    The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

    Gut Health – What to Know and How to Improve It

    Gut Health – What to Know and How to Improve It

    Gut health is a somewhat underrated topic when it comes to personal health, yet research continues to show us that there is a tremendously significant link between the gut and the health of a multitude of other bodily functions and features.

    Our guts are incredibly complex but our understanding improves as the latest research sheds lights on its inner workings.

    In fact, numerous studies have shown that there are clear correlations between gut health and mental health, skin conditions, the immune system, cancer, and even your general mood.

    As such, a system once thought to be relatively simple is proving to play an integral role in maintaining and promoting overall body functioning and psychological wellbeing.

    This drastic change in the way we view the gut is thanks to our improved understanding of a complex network known as the gut microbiome.

    The gut microbiome contains hundreds of different species of bacteria and yeast that reside, grow, and multiply in your digestive tract.

    These various species interact to create a network effect that has implications for the rest of the body.

    Many of the species of bacteria found in your gut are quite beneficial for your body while some are even necessary for a healthy physiological system.

    By looking after the health of your gut, you’re taking care of the good bacteria that reside there and impart beneficial effects on the rest of your body.

    Here we are going to understanding what gut health entails so that addressing problems is made easier all the while trying to prevent issues by taking precautionary measures.

    Basically, we want this article to help you understand and maintain good gut health for the benefit of your entire being.

    gut health improvements - Gut Health - What to Know and How to Improve It

    What to Know About Gut Health

    Unfortunately for all of us, modern life is not set up in such a way that guarantees a healthy gut environment. The opposite is actually true…

    Many key features of today’s society result in many, if not most, people living with high stress levels, operating on too little sleep, taking antibiotics, and eating highly processed foods.

    This unhealthy concoction does not bode well for our gut health and, indeed, the rest of our physiological system.

    Explained further, a gut that is in poor health has a negative knock-on effect with many other aspects of our general health such as the brain, heart, immune system, hormone levels, and mental health all susceptible to an increased likelihood of problems occurring.

    Poor gut health can manifest itself in several ways. Here are some common signs that may give you an indication that your gut is in need of some TLC.

    1. Food Intolerances

    Different from food allergies, food intolerance is the result of the difficulty in digesting a certain food (as opposed to the immune system reaction in food allergies).

    Research indicates that this is due to the poor quality of gut bacteria. Ways in which this can manifest physically is through bloating, gas, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and nausea.

    2. Upset Stomach

    General stomach disturbances such as those mentioned in the previous point, all point to something gone awry in your gut health.

    Constipation and heartburn are some extra signs indicating that your gut is having difficulty processing food and getting rid of the necessary waste.

    Suffering from regular heartburn, bloating or unexpected weight change, might mean you need to see a Gastroenterologist.

    3. Unintentional Weight Changes

    The important word to take note of here is “unintentional”.

    If you are losing or gaining weight without changes in your diet or exercise routine, you may have a sign of an unhealthy gut on your hands.

    When your gut health is suffering, your body will have a reduced ability to effectively absorb all the key nutrients from foods, regulate your blood sugar, and store fat.

    Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO, while weight gain can be caused by insulin resistance or a nagging urge to overeat due to insufficient nutrient absorption.

    4. Irregular Sleep Patterns and Nagging Fatigue

    Insomnia and low sleep quality may be the result of an unhealthy gut. Serotonin, largely produced in your gut, plays a large role in your mood regulation and sleep.

    Therefore, an unhealthy gut may result in poorly regulated serotonin production thereby affecting your sleep quality.

    gut health mealplan - Gut Health - What to Know and How to Improve It

    How to Improve Your Gut Health

    Now that we have taken a closer look at some of the real negative aspects of having poor gut health, let us look at how to improve and maintain good gut health.

    1. Eat a Vegetarian Diet

    Those who enjoy eating meat have a very different gut microbiome from those whose diets consist of only non-meat products.

    This may in part be due to the high levels of prebiotic fibre in a meatless diet.

    Studies have been done which show that following a vegetarian diet after living off a high meat diet results in lower gut inflammation due to the changes in the gut microbiome.

    2. Avoid Smoking

    Smoking is never a good habit to pick up as far as your health is concerned – it has an immensely negative effect on your entire biological system including your gut health.

    Smoking negatively affects one’s gut microbiome by increasing the number of potentially harmful microorganisms while decreasing the levels of beneficial bacteria.

    Consequently, those who smoke have an increased risk of developing intestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

    3. Take Probiotics and eat Fermented Food

    Some research suggests that regularly taking a probiotic, found in health food stores and pharmacies, can support a healthy gut microbiome and that it may even serve as a preventive measure for developing gut inflammation and other intestinal problems.

    For those who want to ingest one less, not one more, pill a day – look towards foods that are natural sources of probiotics.

    Consuming fermented vegetables, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso regularly may improve gut health significantly.

    4. Eat More Prebiotic Fibre

    Non-digestible carbohydrates are referred to as prebiotics and they are essential for the generation of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

    How?

    Well, probiotics feed on this prebiotic fibre which, in turn, help grow and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

    Research has also shown that prebiotics may help probiotics become more tolerant to certain environmental conditions such as changes in PH and temperature.

    5. Reduce Stress

    One of the chief villains contributing to an unhealthy gut, stress, or the lack thereof rather, is very important for keeping your gut microflora healthy and happy.

    Psychological stressors have been shown to have disruptive effects on the proliferation of healthy gut bacteria, even if the stress is temporary.

    The solution is to find ways to manage your stress so that your gut microbiome is less susceptible to sudden changes due to temporary stress.

    Chronic stress is even worse highlighting the case for its mitigation.

    Some key stressors that affect your gut health include sleep deprivation, environmental stressors such as extreme noise pollution and intense temperature changes, and general psychological stress.

    A few useful habits or activities worth looking into for the sake of reducing stress include meditation, deep breathing exercises, and focused muscle relaxation.

    For the sake of completeness, it’s important to remember that simply sticking to a sleep schedule and exercising regularly can do wonders for lowering your stress levels.

    6. Take Antibiotics Only When Absolutely Necessary

    The overuse of antibiotics is a significant public health concern that may eventually lead to antibiotic resistance.

    Apart from that, however, antibiotics are, by very nature, damaging to gut bacteria with research showing that the gut can lack the beneficial bacteria even up to six months after antibiotic use.

    Always consult with your doctor about the necessity of taking an antibiotic so that alternative options may be discussed if they are available and effective.

    gut health and when to see gastroenterologist - Gut Health - What to Know and How to Improve It

    Want to Know More?

    For more information on the digestive tract and the rest of the gastrointestinal system, contact Dr. Schneider or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za and book your consultation today.

    DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

    The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

    Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease refers to a digestive disorder affecting the lower oesophagal sphincter, or LES. This LES muscle is shaped like a ring and is found between your stomach and your oesophagus.

    Typically, you will know that you suffer from GERD if you experience heartburn or acid indigestion.

    This leads to an understanding of the lower oesophagal sphincter’s function. In essence, it stops food and acidic stomach fluids from flowing back into your oesophagus.

    The LES achieves this function by opening to allow food into your stomach and then closing to prevent backflow.

    When the LES weakens or relaxes when it shouldn’t, stomach contents are able to go back up into the oesophagus and cause the associated symptoms such as heartburn, or acid indigestion.

    Symptoms of GERD

    Commonly, GERD is associated with heartburn which, as many people will have experienced at some point in their lives at least once, is characterized by a burning chest sensation.

    This pain starts behind one’s breastbone, almost behind the heart – hence the term “heartburn” – and moves up into the neck and throat.

    It can be described as a feeling of having one’s food making its way to one’s stomach thereby leaving an acidic or bitter taste.

    The length of time in which this particular sensation is felt can vary with time depending on one’s posture – lying down or bending over can worsen, or even cause, it – but may last up to two hours in some cases.

    People have reported feeling better after standing up if the heartburn sensation started while they were sitting or lying down so that may be an immediate, short-term solution to dealing with the pain.

    Medicinally, antacid tablets can be taken to help clear out the acid in the oesophagus and relieve one of the burning sensation.

    Additional GERD Symptoms

    Other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, besides the physical pain, can include a host of others such as:

    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid due to the acidic reflux that occurs
    • The sensation of a lump in the throat.

    Night-time Acid Reflux Symptoms

    Night-time acid reflux is also known to commonly occur as a consequence of the body’s angle while laying down thereby making it harder for a weakened sphincter to remain closed.

    Night-time acid reflux presents with additional signs and symptoms including:

    • Poor sleep quality due to frequent disruptions
    • Asthma occurrence or worsening of an existing condition
    • Chronic cough
    • Laryngitis due to the acidic irritation from reflux.

    when to see a doctor - Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    When to See a Doctor

    Due to the physical location of the chief symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease – behind the heart.

    People experiencing GERD often mistake heartburn pain for actual heart pain thereby falsely self-diagnosing a heart disease or a heart attack.

    The difference cannot be told by you though so if you do experience this pain, it is always best to seek professional medical help to make a correct diagnosis and implement a treatment plan if necessary.

    One should also go see one’s doctor if symptoms are experienced several times a week, the symptoms are severe, one has difficulty breathing, or when over-the-counter medications are not working.

    gerd complications - Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    Risks Factors for Gastroesophageal

    Reflux Disease

    Heartburn is experienced by many people at least once a month. In fact, some studies put that number at about 40%. That’s 40% of the Western population experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms on a reoccurring basis.

    Even children and infants commonly experience GERD symptoms with the most common symptom being continuously occurring vomiting.

    Breathing problems and coughing can also be observed as additional knock-on effects of GERD symptoms.

    Let’s take a look at some of the more common factors that may increase your likelihood of developing GERD.

    By understanding particular lifestyle choices and how they overtly increase the chances of developing GERD, conscious choices can be made to avert a course collision with this acid reflux disease.

    Obesity

    Obesity as always, is one of the chief culprits here with an increased body fat content greatly contributing to the likelihood of developing health problems including GERD.

    Pregnancy

    Pregnancy is also a risk factor in that it can increase the chance of acid reflux from occurring.

    Symptoms should subside, apart from the result of medication use, once the period of pregnancy has been passed.

    Connective Tissue Disorders

    Connective Tissue Disorders have been known to increase the risk of developing GERD.

    Scleroderma is a condition in which the immune system damages healthy tissue and replaces it with scar tissue which causes thickening and tightening of the skin as well as internal damage to organs and other systems.

    The gastrointestinal tract is also affected by this condition with inflammation and thickening of the connective tissue.

    The oesophagus is the most commonly affected part of the gastrointestinal tract in people with scleroderma and, as a result, GERD signs are quite common.

    In fact, around 90% of scleroderma patients exhibit signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease, sometimes referred to as oesophagal scleroderma.

    A Hiatal Hernia

    A hiatal hernia is another disorder that may increase one’s probability of developing GERD.

    In this condition, the stomach bulges into the chest through an opening in the diagram called the hiatus.

    Some in the medical community believe that a hiatal hernia runs the risk of weakening the lower oesophagal sphincter and therefore raising the chances of experiencing gastroesophageal reflux.

    One does not automatically result in the other but a hiatal hernia does make it easier for stomach contents to reflux up and into the oesophagus.

    Causes of hiatal hernia are often age-related with those over 50 witnessing a higher chance of developing it.

    Many who have slight hiatal hernia are actually unaware of the condition with no or very mild symptoms.

    Several factors that can worsen the symptoms of acid reflux include many of the usual culprits such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

    Other factors that put increased pressure on the gastrointestinal system such as eating large meals or eating late at night, eating particular trigger foods, and certain medications, should also be avoided where possible as this can lead to complications in the GI tract health and may result in GERD symptoms.

    how to treat gerd - Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    How to Treat GERD Symptoms

    Treating GERD involves a combination of self-help measures, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, and, in more severe cases, stronger prescription medicines.

    Self-help measures just involved more knowledge of food consumption habits such as eating smaller but more frequent meals, keeping to a healthy weight, not eating large meals late at night, and avoiding any food or drink that you know may trigger symptoms.

    OTC medicine is only necessary when symptoms arise. However, long-term treatment may indeed be needed and this may involve prescription medicine as determined by one’s doctor.

    Surgery is the last and most serious measure to be taken. It may be recommended by one’s doctor if medication is not preventing stomach acid from moving up into the oesophagus.

    GERD Complications and Long-Term Effects

    Long-term GERD symptoms may result in damage to the oesophagus due to the erosive nature of stomach acid.

    This erosive damage can then lead to further problems including the following:

    • Oesophagal scarring and narrowing which then may make swallowing difficult and could require surgery.
    • Ulcers on the oesophagus which may, in turn, cause additional symptoms due to the possibility of bleeding.
    • In rare cases, the cells in the oesophagus may change to become pre-cancerous. The condition is referred to as Barret’s Esophagus and comes with an increased chance of developing cancer.

    Infographic Typical Symptoms of Gastro Oesophageal Reflux - Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

    Summary

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease, while not commonly a serious disease affects many people in the Western world today for a variety of reasons including increased obesity levels, poor dietary health, and increased risk factors such as alcohol and smoking.

    Those suffering from GERD are also found among pregnant women as well as children.

    In essence, GERD symptoms are the consequence of a weakened LES but may be treated, in most cases, with OTC medication and lifestyle changes.

    For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GI tract conditions in Johannesburg, contact Dr Schneider at (011) 482-3010 or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za to book your consultation today.

     

    DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

    The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

    IBS – Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

    IBS – Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or “IBS”, is a gastrointestinal disorder that is typically associated with a number of symptoms being present that include abdominal pain, cramping, increased gas, food intolerance, and bloating.

    In other words, it’s a combination of stomach discomfort and abnormal bowel habits.

    While it is very uncomfortable and does affect one’s livelihood, it is far from being life-threatening and does not indicate a higher likelihood of developing colon conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

    But it can be a long-lasting hindrance that can disrupt the way sufferers of IBS live their lives.

    Found in both adults and children, IBS can be referred to as a functional disorder.

    So, instead of something being wrong with the physical tissue of the digestive system, IBS symptoms are the result of changes in the functioning of the digestive system.

    While you probably won’t be admitted to hospital for having IBS, the sheer quality-of-life impact it can have means it deserves a closer look.

    We’ll start by explaining the causes of IBS before jumping into the signs and symptoms experienced by IBS patients.

    Finally, we’ll offer some insight into currently prescribed treatment methods.

    ibs symptoms - IBS - Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

    Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    There are several factors that can trigger the onset of IBS symptoms with the underlying cause being that of a change in gut bacteria.

    A number of other factors including the alteration of the gastrointestinal tract motility, and abnormal nervous system signals all contribute to the possible onset of IBS symptoms.

    Naturally, there are different ‘triggers’ for different people.

    This slightly complicates the issue of highlighting a particular cause or solution and heralding it as the final answer to understand and treat or cure IBS.

    For now, we have to look at a broad range of risk factors that may predispose one to IBS and it’s related symptoms.

    1. SIBO

    First on the list is SIBO which stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.

    Essentially, this refers to when you have too much bacteria in your small intestine.

    This indicates a shift in the balance of your small intestine’s environment.

    SIBO has its own list of risk factors ranging from diabetes to having a small intestine with an unusual shape.

    In essence, SIBO usually starts when your small intestine doesn’t move food along the way it should. This can cause bacteria to grow and stay in an area too long.

    An imbalance can then occur if the “good” bacteria is hindered by the proliferation of harmful bacteria.

    2. Food Sensitivities

    This is most likely caused due to poor absorption of sugars or acids in food. The result is irritation of the bowels and typically leads to IBS symptoms.

    3. Stress

    Psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression have been found in many people with IBS. Whether the two are a result of causation or a simple correlation is unknown with IBS.

    In other words, psychological conditions may not be a direct cause of IBS but research may find that it increases the probability that you will develop IBS.

    4. Other Causes

    There are several more factors that may lead to IBS symptom development.

    Gastroenteritis, also known as a “stomach bug” and caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and intestines, can trigger IBS symptoms.

    Genetic factors, hypersensitivity to pain from a full bowel, and abnormal movements of the colon and small intestine all contribute to the likelihood of IBS symptoms developing.

     ibs abdominal pain - IBS - Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

    Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Generally speaking, IBS involves changes in the frequency and physical form of bowel movements. It is normally associated with lower abdominal pain as well.

    Pain and cramping happen to be the most common symptoms and a key factor in diagnosing the presence of IBS.

    The cause of this, as mentioned earlier, is related to changes in a patient’s microbiome.

    Diarrhoea affects about one-third of those suffering from IBS making it another common sign of IBS. This in contrast to a less intuitive sign of IBS, namely constipation.

    In fact, constipation affects nearly half of people with IBS. The root cause lies in altered communication between the brain and the bowel causing a change in bowel movement speed.

    One of the most annoying reported symptoms of IBS is bloating. Most people with IBS report this making it an expected symptom when dealing with irritable bowel syndrome.

    The above signs and symptoms are quite consistent across patients with high probabilities of occurring in patients with IBS. The next couple of symptoms vary more wildly among patients.

    Fatigue has been attributed to IBS with adults finding themselves low on energy at work and in social interactions.

    Patients with IBS have also found that their sleep suffers – difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently, and feeling unrested in the morning have all been reported.

    In general, patients have found their energy levels and restful states much lower with the onset of irritable bowel syndrome.

     

    Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Treating IBS is a matter of installing lifestyle and dietary changes that are recommended by a doctor.
    This means that a holistic approach is required to deal with the many facets of one’s biology and lifestyle that may be causing the patient’s IBS.

    In general, lifestyle changes and recommendations about what you should eat may be combined with medicines, probiotics and mental health therapy, depending on the patient’s particular risk profile.

    Patients need to heed the medical advice of their doctors when it comes to their specific situation.
    That said, here are a number of treatments that your doctor may recommend or extra treatments you could add to your treatment plan.

    1. Exercise

    A solution seemingly as old as modern medical advice itself, the benefits of exercise apply to IBS therapy as well.

    Not only has it been shown to improve IBS symptoms, but it also has a well-known effect on anxiety and depression which are IBS risk factors.

    Exercise has the potential to alleviate symptoms and lower the reoccurrence of IBS down the line.

    2. Set a Sleep Schedule

    Our bodily functions are controlled by our biological clocks, or circadian rhythms. Gut functioning also follows this cycle. As a result, if one’s sleep is disrupted, the gut may be suffering.

    It’s recommended to stick to a sleep schedule to help control fluctuations in gut irregularity.

    If one is travelling across time zones, it may be worth taking some melatonin which can help regulate the circadian rhythm.

    Consistency is key here. The upsides can be significant, not just for gut health but for one’s overall health as well.

    3. Medication

    Your doctor may prescribe certain medications to alleviate IBS symptoms and combat their reoccurrence.

    An antihistamine may be given as this can help lower the histamine released in your gut due to an allergic reaction.

    This can lead to reduced inflammation and a resultant decrease in IBS symptoms.

    Antidepressants in low doses have been shown to alleviate symptoms.

    Depending on the type of symptoms a patient is experiencing, different antidepressants may be prescribed.

    Some help to inhibit the activity of nerves in the gut which helps to lower pain.

    In other cases, an antidepressant can be prescribed to speed up the gastrointestinal tract.

    As mentioned earlier, IBS could be the result of an overgrowth of bacteria.

    In such cases, an antibiotic such as Rifaximin may be given by your doctor to inhibit the bacteria’s growth.

    ibs nutrition - IBS - Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

    4. Diet and Lifestyle

    Several lifestyle changes can help alleviate IBS symptoms. Another two worth mentioning here are probiotics and yoga.

    Probiotics help to balance your gut microbiome. They’re referred to as the “good bacteria” and can be found in many food sources such as dairy products and fruit like bananas.

    Including this in your diet can be a good idea to get your gut microbiome to a sustainably healthy position.

    Yoga has been suggested to alleviate the symptoms of IBS.

    One way it may achieve this is by increasing serotonin levels thereby decreasing feelings of stress and anxiety.

    Summary

    Irritable bowel syndrome does not have to be a debilitating problem for which there is no solution.

    There are, however, nasty symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating which can make certain aspects of life unpleasant.

    Through following the advice of a doctor, there are a number of effective therapeutic methods with the most notable being overall lifestyle changes accompanied by targeted medication.

    Irritable bowel syndrome can affect one’s life ranging from a reduced amount of sleep to abdominal pain and less energy to do what you love.

    The symptoms of cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating are responsible for this, in some cases quite severe, hindrance on normal human functioning.

    There are however lifestyle and dietary changes which can be implemented, along with the medicinal prescriptions from a doctor, that can alleviate most, if not all, of the suffering experienced by those with irritable bowel syndrome.

    For more information on the treatment of IBS in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za and book your consultation today.

     

    Colon Cancer Risk Factors Prevention infographic 120x300 - IBS - Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

    DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

    The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.