IBS is an ‘umbrella’ term given to a group of symptoms affecting the bowel for which there may be many causes. The most common causes or ‘trigger’s' for the symptoms include diet, stress and anxiety.
In the past, the medical focus was more on the stress and anxiety aspects but more recently, diet has become a major focus of intervention. It does seem that there are certain personality types that are more prone to IBS symptoms and one of the treatments offered are mild antidepressants as this can sometimes reduce anxiety, release of adrenalin and stimulation of the bowel. In these people, it may be that IBS will be a lifelong condition.
However, not all people have anxious personalities and in these people a change in diet may not only reduce symptoms, but eliminate symptoms entirely. Possible dietary causes include food chemical intolerance and reduced fermentable carbohydrate (FODMAP) absorption. Coeliac disease should always be investigated in any one presenting with IBS symptoms as the symptoms can be the similar.
The mechanism of food chemical intolerance is not well understood but the mechanism of reduced FODMAP absorption is understood. In both, a reduction of the offending chemical or FODMAP causes improvement of symptoms. Food chemical intolerance tends to be a lifelong problem although the severity of symptoms will vary depending on health and stress. Some FODMAP intolerance may be lifelong, some may be temporary. One possible cause of IBS symptoms is the type of bowel bacteria present. Probiotics have been proven useful in some IBS patients by changing the type of bowel bacteria. So perhaps this is the only possible cause of IBS which is not necessarily lifelong.
Whilst sensitivity of the bowel to certain triggers may be a permanent feature, quite possibly genetically determined, there are many options available for the management and control of symptoms so that the discomfort caused by IBS does not need to be lifelong.
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