When IBS Symptoms Aren’t Controlled

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that impacts the stomach and intestines. Common symptoms include cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. Unfortunately, IBS is a long-term chronic condition. While many people can manage symptoms with dietary choices, lifestyle changes, and controlling stress, other individuals may need medications or counseling. Endoscopy is another treatment option, but many individuals are uncertain about when the procedure is necessary.

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What does an endoscopy do?

Generally speaking, an endoscopy is a medical procedure involving the insertion of a long thin tube into the body. The tube has a camera attached, allowing a medical professional to look inside the body. Endoscopies for IBS are minimally invasive procedures designed to help doctors closely examine the digestive tract. Usually, the process is completed as an outpatient procedure.

Process of elimination

Although an endoscopy can’t diagnose IBS, the procedure can be used to rule out other conditions. In most cases, a physician will rely on patient symptoms to engage in a process of elimination. To receive an IBS diagnosis, the individual must have abdominal pain lasting at least 12 weeks. Remember that the pain doesn’t have to be consecutive, but when considered together, the discomfort should extend for the necessary time frame. Likewise, IBS diagnoses are usually made for people who experience mucus in the stool, bowel straining, bloating, and changes in the stool.

A holistic approach

While digestive tract symptoms are the hallmark signs of IBS, other lifestyle complications can make a person more likely to receive a diagnosis. People with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions are more likely to suffer from the condition. Researchers believe a brain-gut link, known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), exists. The ENS looks at the gut or stomach as the second brain in the body, with a network of 100 million nerve cells that line the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract. When emotions are out of balance, the ENS can manifest those feelings through digestive upset and discomfort. Current theories propose that IBS and other bowel problems can profoundly influence mental health and mood changes.

When red flags arise

While the bulk of IBS symptoms are fairly standard, a few issues exist which can indicate a more serious condition might be present. For example, IBS symptoms in conjunction with anemia, unexplained weight loss, GI bleeding, being over 50 when symptoms begin, or discomfort that causes a person to wake in the night are all signs that a more thorough investigation is necessary. Don’t be surprised if a physician orders an endoscopy.

Take control of IBS

Currently, no cure exists for IBS. However, with medication and lifestyle changes, people can better control the symptoms and live productive lives. Not every person with an IBS diagnosis will need to undergo an endoscopy, but the procedure can be helpful for certain patients. Individuals concerned that IBS might be behind frequent upset stomachs should consider speaking with a physician.