Roughly every tenth Swede suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, but the number is probably higher. It is considered one of the most common diseases in the world, despite the fact that knowledge is still relatively low – although research is constantly progressing.
Diagnosis itself is simple and is usually done in primary care, but the mechanisms of the disease are complex. There can be many different factors behind the disease and the disease picture varies, says Osa Keita, assistant professor of experimental gastroenterology at Linköping University, who among other things does research on IBS.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Cause and risk factors
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disease or functional gastrointestinal disorder. In short, this means that you have a certain set of symptoms without there being an obvious cause behind them. Unlike celiac disease and gluten intolerance, there are no samples you can take to facilitate diagnosis.
– It is about describing their symptoms and excluding, for example, celiac disease, lactose intolerance and inflammatory bowel disease. In a colonoscopy, an examination that doesn’t need to be done in most people with typical IBS symptoms, there’s nothing to show you’re sick, it looks healthy, says Åsa Keita.
There is also no clear answer as to why some people have IBS and some don’t. It probably has to do with the interaction of a number of different factors, such as the relationship between the brain and the gut, bacterial composition, stress, diet, and genetics. But there is no clear reason.
It’s not that you get IBS just because you’ve been under stress for a while or because you ate a certain type of food.
Some people with IBS have disturbed intestinal flora, in which the composition of the bacteria looks different. For example, there may be very few “type” bacteria, which means that harmful bacteria can take root. But this is not the case for everyone.
Others have large bacterial flora. It varies a lot, which makes it a complex disease picture.
Is there an obvious risk factor?
There is something called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after infection, which can happen due to the fact that you have tourist diarrhea, for example. Most people recover, but some develop an intestinal infection that does not go away. But this is not the dominant part. Other common risk factors are female gender or poor mental state.
Diarrhea and Constipation – Common Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
All people with IBS share different forms of abdominal pain and irregular bowel function, of varying degrees of severity. Some have regular diarrhea, while others have frequent constipation or a combination of both.
Many also experience bloating or bloating in the stomach and the formation of large gases.
It can affect the quality of life quite a lot for many. There is also a close association between anxiety and depression. Partly because of the pain, Osa Keita says, but also because it affects social life.
People with IBS can also experience extreme fatigue that does not exceed the amount of sleep they get. Some also experience not emptying the bowels properly after visiting the toilet or there is too much urgency to go to the toilet when the bowels are compressed, which in some may lead to stool leakage.
The picture of the disease varies greatly from person to person. How you react to treatment is also very individual.
How do you feel when you have irritable bowel disease?
Sophia Antonson, a certified nutritionist and founder of Belly Balance, suffers from a milder form of IBS and knows how difficult it can be for a person with it.
The stomach consumes a lot of energy and time. She says you feel your stomach a lot more and think about it more than others.
Many people also have trouble trusting their stomachs, which affects their daily lives. Those with diarrhea, for example, should always keep track of where the nearest toilet is. If you are constipated, the question “When will I go to the toilet next?” will be carefully considered.
Feeling that there is always an upset stomach.
What are the treatments and medications for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic disease that cannot be cured today. However, there are a number of different treatment options that can alleviate the problems, but as Åsa Keita explains, it is often what works and what doesn’t work individually.
Symptoms such as diarrhea and constipation can be relieved with common medications intended for these particular diseases. There are also probiotics and prebiotics in tablet form whose purpose is to strengthen the intestinal flora.
For some, cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, may be an option to learn to manage pain and all the thoughts associated with it.
Many people also experience a significant improvement in quality of life by changing their diet. It is recommended to eat more often and less in front of the seldom and more often. If you eat slowly, it is also easier to take care of the stomach with food.
“A diet therapy, such as a food preservative where you exclude certain foods containing fermentable carbohydrates, can be an alternative for some highly motivated patients who do not have an eating disorder,” Keita says.
Reduced stress and regular exercise are also indicated as potential mitigation measures.
Will Irritable Bowel Syndrome be cured?
As a researcher, I hope so, of course. It’s the ambition to find something. But I think it will be difficult to find something that can cure everyone. I think in the long run you can find new medicines, but I don’t think there will be a universal medicine that you can offer to everyone.
Can IBS be dangerous?
The short answer is no, IBS is not physically dangerous. It is not a disease that you can die from.
On the other hand, constant pain can greatly affect the quality of life and lead to various types of mental illnesses, which are not very healthy.
If you have round-the-clock diarrhea, it’s hard to plan your life, says Osa Keita.
What does the search condition look like?
Awareness of IBS has increased significantly in recent decades.
Today, there is a much greater understanding of how the gut microbiota works, how the gut communicates with the brain and how genetics and genes play a role.
Osa Keita and her research team, for example, are looking at the interaction between intestinal immune cells and their nervous system. One thesis is that one can find certain immune cells that are more active in people with IBS, and try, for example, to block these cells or their mediators (a type of chemical compound that can cause inflammation in the body).
– But it’s a long way there. The tricky thing is that cells and mediators often have other functions in the body that they need. It has to be something very local.
Keita remains hopeful, although a global solution is unlikely for the foreseeable future.
We take small steps all the time, and if you go back ten years, a lot has happened.
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