Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is chronic spasms of the large intestine, causing diarrhoea and constipation. Although it is not considered as serious as other intestinal disorders such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, it can still be a debilitating and difficult disorder to deal with. There is a connection between bladder spasms and the spasms that cause irritable bowel syndrome. Although IBS has been recognised as a serious disorder for approximately 50 years, it has only been in the past decade that it has received substantial research.
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According to Mohammed El-Baba, MD of Wayne State University School of Medicine, it is estimated that approximately 50 per cent of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome also have difficulties with bladder spasms or overactive bladder. Individuals with IBS often learn to control the symptoms through controlling stress, diet and with medication. However, some people find the diarrhoea and constipation that comes with the disorder to be extremely disruptive and even debilitating.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it is not well understood what precisely causes irritable bowel syndrome. For individuals affected with the disorder, the intestinal tract spasms unusually quickly as it pushes food through the system. This causes the abdominal cramping and either diarrhoea or constipation that is associated with the disorder. For many people with the disorder, eating can become a distressful necessity since eating is usually associated with bouts of intestinal problems.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several different triggers for individuals affected with irritable bowel syndrome and bladder problems. Since the muscles that line the intestinal tract are affected, certain foods, such as chocolate, milk or alcohol, can make the muscles contract abnormally, triggering an episode. Other triggers include stress and hormones. Controlling stress can help alleviate symptoms. Women are affected by IBS and irritable bladder syndrome twice as often as men and it is thought that there is a hormonal component to the disorder.
There are several symptoms that are common to IBS according to the Mayo Clinic. These include abdominal cramping, feeling bloated, constipation, diarrhoea and mucus in the stool. Some individuals experience bouts of alternating constipation and diarrhoea, which may cause considerable distress. The symptoms of IBS may trigger additional problems with bladder control and bladder spasms associated with irritable bladder syndrome. Depression is also associated with IBS and irritable bladder.
There are several treatments available according to the Mayo Clinic. Medications, such as Imodium, are often used to control diarrhoea symptoms although they can exacerbate constipation symptoms. Patients may also be encouraged to add fibre to their diet to alleviate symptoms of diarrhoea. If the patient is also experiencing depression, SSRIs such as Paxil or Prozac may be prescribed. Patients are also encouraged to eliminate foods from their diet that trigger episodes or cause high amounts of gas, since these also exacerbate symptoms.
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