“Bad stomach” – Irritable bowel syndrome

Periods of stress & emotional conflict can cause depression and anxiety, which ultimately exacerbate episodes of irritable bowel syndrome.

Dr Ojum Ekeoma Ogwo

I received 4 calls from 4 different women, when I discussed Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD). Four of them used the same words “bad stomach”, to describe 4 very different symptoms, they were experiencing. Viz;-

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1) “Immediately, I finish eating, I will feel like going to the toilet, like diarrhoea, I have a bad stomach.”

2) “Doc, I have a bad stomach. Whenever I take little food, my stomach swells up, and I pass out a lot of gas. Now I eat mostly groundnuts and cucumber”.

3) “If I eat small food, I develop stomach pain. Some say it is ulcer, my stomach is very bad.”

4) “Doc my stomach is very bad. Sometimes I stay for 2 days without going to toilet. I feel very uncomfortable being around people, if you know what I mean.”

These are among numerous texts, e-mails and other calls, who also described various ailments in their gastrointestinal tracts, using varied terminologies to allude that their ‘stomachs were bad’.

Do you know that, the state of your stomach, is controlled by what you consume. When health workers tell you to eat healthy foods, they are indirectly telling you to watch, and vary what you consume.

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Most of my patients tell me, that they removed beans and excessive pepper from their menu, because they are the culprits mostly implicated in their “bad stomach”. Have you ever experienced a severe abdominal discomfort, when on a long journey. This is when you need absolute privacy to battle your “bad stomach”, you could give or pay anything to either be relieved or be left alone. I shall give you guidelines on what to do.

Now a little definition.

What is this Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS)?- ”bad stomach”.

This is a recurrent abdominal pain with diarrhoea, and or constipation, and occasionally the passage of mucus per rectum, in the absence of any demonstrable organic pathology.

What are the causes of irritable bowel syndrome?

i) Psychological factors; Like stress and emotional conflict. This affects women 3 times more than men. These periods of stress & emotional conflict can cause depression and anxiety, which ultimately exacerbate episodes of irritable bowel syndrome.

ii) Food intolerance; Diet and sensitivity to certain foods, also aggravate it.

iii) Drugs; Changes in bowel flora due to antibiotics also contribute.

iv) Hormones; Hormonal changes especially in women play very vital roles.

v) Chemical irritants; These may cause the gastrointestinal tract to contract abnormally, and give pains and discomfort.

What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?

■ Abdominal distension.

■ Pain is relieved by bowel movement, that is going to toilet.

■ Loose stools or outright diarrhoea.

■ More frequent bowel movement than normal with the outset of pain.

■ There are 2 major types of irritable bowel syndrome. The spastic colon and the painless colon types.

■ The spastic colon type is commonly triggered by eating. This usually produces periodic constipation, or diarrhoea with pain.

■ Sometimes diarrhoea and constipation alternate.

■ Mucus often appear in the stool.

■ The pain may come in bouts of continuous, dull aching or cramps, usually all over the lower abdomen.

■ The 2nd colonic type, produces painless diarrhoea or relatively painless constipation.

How do we diagnose irritable bowel syndrome?

The diagnosis rests on the presence of suitable symptoms, and the exclusion of other diseases, such as cancer and colitis.

What is the treatment for irritable bowel syndrome?

1) Re-assurance and explanation. These differ from person to person.

2) Take 2 glasses of water (0.5l) first thing in the morning after brushing your teeth, and another 2 glasses of water (0.5l) last thing at night before you sleep. For as long as the symptoms persist.

3) Identify the type of stress and food, that trigger off the symptoms and avoid them.

4) Take plenty of dietary fibre – this alters your bowel movement.

5) Regular physical activity helps keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning normally.

6) People with abdominal distension and increased gas (flatulence) passage, should avoid beans, cabbage and other foods that are difficult to digest.

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Magnesium trysilicate could be very helpful.

7) A low fat diet helps some people.

8) Take plenty of water with fruits at each meal.

9) Certain drugs like mebeverine, dicyclomine, propantheline could help, but please let your doctor prescribe them.

10) Lastly watch what you eat. If a certain food, gives you discomfort by jove avoid it.

Again if in doubt please consult your doctor.