You knew that cup of coffee was a bad idea, but you were craving a morning caffeine boost. Now you're suffering from painful cramps due to your irritable bowel syndrome, and you know diarrhea will follow shortly.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common and chronic disorder that affects your intestines. Though the precise cause of IBS is not known, the condition causes your digestive system to function abnormally or erratically.
One factor that may play a role in IBS is the contraction of your intestines. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax as they move food through the digestive tract. When you have IBS, those contractions may be stronger and push food through the intestines too hastily, leading to signs and symptoms such as diarrhea and pain.
Although pain is the hallmark symptom of IBS, the condition may also result in constipation or alternating diarrhea and constipation. Bloating and gas also are common. These signs and symptoms may flare up or temporarily improve and even disappear, but there is no cure for IBS.
Nonprescription and prescription drugs may help, but IBS may also respond to lifestyle modifications such as learning what triggers your symptoms and working to eliminate those triggers.
It may be easy to identify some of your triggers — such as that troublesome morning coffee — but other times, you may feel like the symptoms are random. It can be easy to become hopeless or frustrated if you feel like nothing's working.
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