April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder within the large intestine with symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition with a spectrum of symptoms and intensity that impact diet, lifestyle, and stress. IBS may increase risk of colorectal cancer. IBS affects between 10-15% of the US population (aboutibs.org).

IBS disease progression may result in:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea at night
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement

These symptoms often require physician review to assess the current management strategy and identify potential interventions to manage symptoms more effectively. IBS symptoms may be a result of muscle contractions, abnormalities in the nervous system, an infection, stress, or changes in the gut microbes. Individuals at risk for IBS are women under 50 with a family history of IBS and a personal history of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues (mayoclinic.org).

Typical medical team members may include your primary care physician, a gastroenterologist, and a registered dietitian. As the condition progresses, patients may experience to their swallow, and a speech language pathologist may be consulted for strategies to support a safe swallow (my.clevelandclinic.org)

Home health may be appropriate in these disease changes to address side effects of new medication regimens, identifying foods that would be less irritating to the system, and address changes to the swallow. Key professionals that are typically ordered are skilled nursing, speech-language pathology, and registered dietitian.