What Are The First Signs Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

What Are The First Signs Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that can cause painful stomach cramps and changes in the frequency, or type of bowel movements. IBS can be hard to diagnose since it can be triggered by a variety of things. And everyone’s trigger is different, and symptoms are not always consistent among patients. Finally, the symptoms of IBS also mimic that of other conditions, making it difficult to know for sure if you have it without talking to a doctor.  Below are some of the more common symptoms of IBS.

 

Signs And Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

 Abdominal pain or cramps.

This is one of the most common sigs of IBS, and usually occurs in the lower abdomen.  The pain typically goes away after a bowel movement. For many people, a change in diet can help with the pain. Medications also exist that can treat pain associated with IBS. 

Gas and bloating.

This is another common symptom of IBS. With IBS, extra gas is produced in the gut, and can cause bloating (which may also lead to pain mentioned above).  Again, certain changes in your diet may help reduce gas and bloating.

Diarrhea, constipation, or both. 

Some people with IBS may experience loose stools, or a sudden, immediate urge to have a bowel movement.  Others may experience constipation, which when accompanied by pain that improves following a bowel movement is a common sign of IBS. Still others may have alternating bouts of both diarrhea and constipation.

 Fatigue.

Feeling tired or a lack of energy is a common complaint in people with irritable bowel syndrome. This may be because certain vitamins that are essential to our well-being are not as readily absorbed when you have IBS. Additionally, disruptions in sleep due to increased symptoms of IBS may lead to a worsened quality of sleep, and increased tiredness throughout the day.

Food intolerance.

Different foods may trigger IBS in different people, but some common ones may include lactose and gluten, or FODMAPs, which are certain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.  These include certain vegetables and fruits, beans, wheat and rye, some nuts, and sweeteners or artificial sweeteners.  Learn more about FODMAP diets here.

Pay attention to your diet to see what foods may be triggering your symptoms. A bowel diary can help you track this. (Download our free bowel diary here!)

Stress.

The symptoms of IBS may cause great distress and leave patients feeling overly stressed and anxious. Ironically, reactions of stress can actually lead to added IBS symptoms. Finding ways to reduce stress (like meditating or exercising regularly) may lead to less severe symptoms of IBS.

 

IBS can be a very painful and uncomfortable condition, but the good news is that it’s treatable. Not everyone with IBS will have all of these symptoms, but if you’re experiencing any of the conditions listed above, talk to your doctor. Together you can figure out a treatment plan that works for you.

 

Practicing Mindfulness To Ease IBS Symptoms

Practicing Mindfulness To Ease IBS Symptoms

In today’s hectic and crazy world, it’s hard to even think about finding the time to just sit and practice mindfulness.  For many, it’s a hard concept to grasp, and as a practice, it can feel intimidating to start. But carving out even 5-10 minutes of each day for some quite time can do wonders for your stress and anxiety levels, and may even help with things like IBS symptoms, simply by calming your mind and being objectively aware of how you’re feeling.

BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years and is thought to have originated in Eastern cultures and religions.   Turns out that the ancient practitioners were on to something. Recent research has shown that mindfulness has many benefits, including the following: 

  • Reduced rumination

  • Reduced stress and decreased anxiety

  • Increased working memory capacity

  • Better ability to focus

  • Less emotional reactivity

  • Enhanced self-insight

  • Increased immune functioning

  • Improvements in well-being

WHAT TO EXPECT

Before you start practicing mindfulness, you need to know a bit about what to expect.  The main goal of mindfulness is to be able to pay attention to the present moment you’re in, without judgment. This sounds pretty easy, but once you get started you’ll see it’s much harder than it appears.

Your mind has a mind of it’s own and tends to drift toward all sorts of things except what’s happening to you right at this moment – that big work project coming up, the cupcakes you promised to make for your 3rd grader’s class this week, an upsetting conversation you had with a friend or family member, your growing to-do list, and on and on.

But not to fear – your wandering mind is completely normal and it just takes some practice pulling your thoughts back to the present moment once you realize they’ve drifted off. Once you’re able to this in practice, you’ll find you’re better able to do it in real life too, making you more present in your day-to-day activities.

HOW TO START

  1. Find a comfortable place to practice. This doesn’t have to be a picturesque seat in the middle of a garden or waterfall. It can be a comfortable chair in your kitchen, a quite spot outside, or even your desk chair in your office. The main thing is to find a place that feels good to you. Be sure that your body posture is comfortable too, and that you’re in a position that you can remain in for the length of your practice.

  2. Start with 5-10 minutes. This feels like a small amount of time, but is a great place to start when you’re trying to fit this practice into your day. And when you’re just getting started, trust us when we say that even 5-10 minutes may feel like a long time to just sit still. As you continue with your practice, you can begin to extend your time.

  3. Concentrate on your breathing. No need to count your breaths or hold it for a specific amount of time. Just feel your breath as you inhale and exhale slowly and regularly.

  4. If you feel your mind start to wander (and you will), just acknowledge it and then pull your concentration back to your breath.

  5. Don’t judge yourself or your feelings. This is hard work, and takes practice to be able to continually be present and not focus on the things that are happening in our lives.

  6. Practice makes perfect. Or at least it makes you better. With continued practice of mindfulness meditation, you’ll become much better at staying focused throughout and that will bleed into other areas of your life as well. We know it’s hard to sit still for a set time each day, but stay with it. The benefits are well worth it.