The typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include changes in bowel movement patterns, bloating and feelings of excess gas, pain in the lower abdominal area and mucus in the stool, explains WebMD. Because doctors are uncertain about what causes IBS, treatment usually involves symptom management, says Mayo Clinic. This includes dietary changes to avoid trigger foods, sufficient hydration, adequate sleep and stress management.
Doctors consider a diagnosis of IBS if a person has experienced symptoms for at least six months and has had abdominal discomfort no fewer than three days per month for more than three months, according to WebMD. Additionally, two of the following conditions must exist: The person's pain is relieved with a bowel movement; the pain is linked to the frequency of bowel movements; or the pain is associated with a change in the appearance of the stool. Frequency issues usually include constipation or diarrhea, with fewer than three bowel movements per week or more than three bowel movements per day respectively.
Dietary changes that sometime help IBS sufferers include eliminating gas-producing foods such as cabbage and raw fruits and decreasing the intake of a class of foods known as fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides and polyols, or FODMAPs. These foods, which include some grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products, contain carbohydrates that sometimes aggravate the symptoms of IBS, notes Mayo Clinic. Some patients who have IBS with constipation benefit from fiber supplements, such as Metamucil and Citrucel, while those with diarrhea often get relief with antidiarrheal medicine such as Imodium. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also approved two IBS-specific medications, Alosetron and Lubiprostone, for women with severe IBS.