IBS or irritable bowel syndrome in seniorscan be a particularly difficult condition to live with. If you are an older individual, IBS can be that much harder to handle. IBS is a common condition, and thankfully, people are more willing to talk about it nowadays. It impacts all walks of life, although women are more prone to experiencing it than men.
If You Have IBS, What Do You Do?
If you suspect you have IBS, the first step is to see your doctor for an examination, testing, a diagnosis, and finally, a treatment plan that works for you. One great approach is to immediately begin a major adjustment of your lifestyle. The adjustments you make in your life are likely not to be as big of a deal as you might think, and your abdominal region will thank you.
You can live with IBS, and quite comfortably.Combating IBS involves including or excluding particular elements in your life.If you are an older person who has IBS, here are 19 tips to help you:
Know Your Body
As much as your doctor may have the knowledge to diagnose your IBS condition, only you can truly explain your symptoms. Keeping track of how your body reacts or does not react to certain foods or behaviors. If you are meticulous of these changes, you can accurately determine which you need to continue and which you need to stop doing.
- Reduce Your Stress – To treat IBS, you must reduce the number one cause, which is stress. Reducing stress levels or managing it more effectively can help prevent IBS attacks. Being anxious, fearful, or angry can cause more bowel movements and also develop constipation.
Here are some ways to lower your stress levels:
- Quiet Walks
- Watch Your Diet – Following a diet that is low in fat can be helpful for breaking up of foods and thus elimination of those foods. Combining this with consuming more carbohydrates, as well as fiber will also help IBS. Some foods may need to be tested to discover individual sensitivity to them. Gassy foods are likely to contribute to IBS symptoms.
- Smoking – Avoid smoking yourself and stay away from second-hand smoke.
- Sorbitol – This is a kind of laxative medication that can be taken for constipation but only for constipation that is experienced on a rare basis. Avoid consuming sorbitol. Since IBS causes more frequent episodes, this medication will not provide any benefit. Laxatives, such as sorbitol should only be used when your doctor recommends them.
- Don’t Say Cheese – Cheese can be a food that increases constipation, so reducing your intake of cheese may reduce your IBS episodes.
- Get Your Body Moving – Exercising on a regular basis will encourage your bodily processes to function more regularly and healthily. Exercise provides more regulation for your bowel movements. If you are not active, you may find that you develop constipation.
- Add More Fiber – Adding in more fiber-heavy foods to your diet is helpful to reducing the severity of your IBS episodes. Bran is a food to consider eating more of, as it is high in fiber. Also, consider consuming more of the crunchy vegetable variety.
- Water – Staying hydrated throughout the day is helpful. This helps flush your system.
- Small Versus Large Meals – Arranging your meals into smaller-sized meals rather than larger ones may help your digestive system work through them, with less pain and cramping for you.
- Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant. Overstimulation of your body may exacerbate your IBS symptoms
- Chocolate May Not Be the Answer – Consuming less chocolate may reduce IBS symptoms. The same way that other dairy products may increase constipation, chocolate has a similar influence on the body.
- Reduce Fried Foods – Spicy, fried and fatty foods have an irritating nature to them. It makes sense that slowing down your intake of them would help your body more smoothly process and eliminate more smoothly
- Medications – Certain medications may cause diarrhea or constipation. Strong pain medications may have one of these as a side effect. You may find that your doctor prescribes a laxative to take along with your pain medication.
As for medications that might be given specifically to alleviate IBS, these are potential ones you might be given by your doctor:
- Laxatives and fiber supplements.
- Medication that stop diarrhea.
- Medication to reduce anxiety.
- Medication to relieve depression.
- Medication to relieve cramps.
- Massage – Massaging your abdominal region on a consistent basis may be beneficial to your bowel movements. It might even stimulate your bowel movements.
- Processed Foods – Avoiding overly processed foods may reduce IBS. Also, reconsider meat when it is completely on its own may lead to constipation. And refined wheat products may do so, as well.
- Obesity – If you are obese, you may have noticed that your bowel movements have become sluggish. Losing weight, slowly, can help increase your bowel movements and return them to a more normal range. Reduce your calories to slowly lose some of your weight.
- Be Consistent – It is possible to train your bowel movements. Try going to the bathroom for number two at around the same time every day. This can be beneficial to teaching your body when to work through the entire elimination process.
- Take Your Time – Going to the bathroom may seem like an inconvenience sometimes, but it is one of the most important bodily functions. Because of this importance, it is critical to take your time each and every single time you go.
- Probiotics – Increase the levels of healthy bacteria in your body. Consuming probiotics are a dietary supplement. They may assist with bowel movement processes.
There was a recent study that analyzed other studies on probiotics. It was found that ingestion of probiotics helped reduce IBS symptoms.
Is it IBS or Not?
IBS is a specific disease in itself. Sometimes, the condition is referred to as colitis, spastic colon and spastic bowel. The problem with labeling irritable bowel syndrome any of the aforementioned condition names is that they are not completely accurate. Each of these conditions is completely separate from IBS:
- Colitis– This is a form of IBD or Irritable Bowel Disorder, which is a disease, versus IBS, which is a syndrome. IBS does not cause permanent damage to the body like IBD does. IBD may result in hospitalization; IBS rarely does. IBD may require surgery, as well.
- Spastic Colon–Similar symptoms as IBS, as it manifests itself through cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. When the abdominal muscles contract, it is said that they spasm. But spastic colon is an increase in the colon’s muscle activity, while IBS is a combination of many other issues.
- Spastic Bowel–This is related more to a spastic colon condition than irritable bowel syndrome.
What is Normal Bowel Syndrome?
Before we venture into a discussion of irritable bowel syndrome, it is important to clarify normal bowel syndrome. First off, experiencing normal bowels is not a syndrome in itself. But there are specific elements that define it.
Stool movements should be relatively easy to pass. The rare more difficult bowel movement may simply be the result of a particular food item you ingested, or it could mean higher stress levels in your life at the moment. Adding more fiber and water to your diet, and getting some exercise and restful sleep should help with that.
Gastrointestinal Motility: What You Need to Know
When your food and waste moves through your body, it is medically defined as gastrointestinal motility. The muscles in your abdominal area work in a special system to push out the waste. Just as your nerves automatically function without you even having to think about using them, your elimination system functions in a similar capacity. Assuming your abdominal region is not overly sensitive, your bowel movements will occur on a regular basis.
The basic steps involved in the bowel movement system are listed below:
- Step one: Food enters each section of your gut from your throat and esophagus.
- Step two: The wall of your intestine stretches a little bit.
- Step three: Your abdominal muscles contract and push the material to the next part. This entire process works like a finely-oiled machine. It also works with the assistance of your hormones and your nerve signals.
- Step four: When your colon experiences a full sensation within it, meaning that the walls of it are being stretched, the need to eliminate this waste from the body is felt.
- Step five: Your rectum is filled with stool
- Step six: When over the toilet, you then can relax your sphincters and the stool is released from your body.You do have voluntary and involuntary sphincters, which are the reason that a bowel movement can come when you might not actually be quite ready for it. Assuming you can get there in time, it is always prudent to literally go with the flow and do not hold it in.
This refusing of a bowel movement might result in a constipation episode for you. This won’t in any fashion develop into IBS of course; but that does not mean that the episode could be incredibly uncomfortable. Just like your mind and the rest of your body, your bowel movements thrive on regularity, too. So, interfering with that system is likely to have consequences.
Being regular in your bowel movements can be altered by the time of day, the amount of exercise you do, as well as your emotional well-being. You can also be regular at the same time during each day. Either way, do not ignore Mother Nature. When the urge happens, listen to your body, because delaying things can cause your entire system to slow down.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Seniors?
Normal bowel functioning involves the muscles on your intestinal walls moving in a sort of cadenced manner. If this cadence is interrupted, the food that has been digested speeds, up or it loses speed during its path to elimination from your body. During these speed inconsistencies, constipation and diarrhea are experienced.
How Common is Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Seniors?
IBS can afflict a range of ages of people. There is no specific age group that is more or less impacted. But with different ages, there come different manifestations of the condition. And being older certainly can cause more disruption in daily life than might be experienced by younger individuals. In seniors, approximately one-half of all gastrointestinal complaints are IBS.
Women are more likely to suffer from IBS than men. Young people are not immune, either, no thanks to heavy junk food consumption. Video games and other sedentary activities only aggravate the condition in the young.
Lifestyle changes can make all the difference in such cases. Other aspects that can increase acquiring of IBS are levels of stress, another modern problem both young and old face.
Signs and Symptoms
Individuals who suffer from IBS have days when it does not affect them. It is indeed a condition that comes and goes. But with IBS, you only need a day or two of symptoms to make it seem like it is constantly happening.
This of course does not make it any easier to live with; but it does lead one to be able to specify the particular symptoms and signs of IBS as they are making themselves known. The best thing to do is to keep a food/life journal. Write down what you eat, when you eat it, and what is happening to you in your life at the time.
Before long, you’ll notice a distinct pattern that can help you pinpoint your individual triggers. Then, all you’ll have to do is avoid them to feel healthy and energetic again.
The medical community seems a bit unsure in what exactly causes irritable bowel syndrome. A possible culprit is simply a more sensitive stomach lining that cannot take the foods and more that it is faced with. This over-sensitivity overreacts and slows down bodily processes in the form of waste removal.
There is no rhyme or reason as to whether this upset will cause a speeding up or a slowing down or a combination of these on an individual basis. For this reason, a journal is an invaluable tool for you to use. It only takes a month or two to see the link between your eating and lifestyle, and your IBS symptoms.
As is common with other medical conditions, genetics may play a role. If you have family members that have suffered from IBS, you are probably likely to experience it, as well.
In general, the symptoms of IBS are magnified if the person is experiencing stress. Higher stress equals more episodes of IBS. When individuals are experiencing stress, their body may overcompensate for the heart beating faster, and other bodily changes.
Additional symptoms that IBS sufferers might experience include:
- Mucous– After eliminating waste, mucous is found to be present in the stool.
- Composition– Noticing that the make-up of your stool varies from day to day. This variation needs to be drastic in order to qualify as a symptom of IBS.
- Possible stool compositions: loose stool, watery stool, frequent movements, or infrequent movements.
- Frequent bowel movements are medically defined as diarrhea-predominant IBS
- Infrequent or great difficulty having bowel movements are medically defined as constipation-predominant IBS.
- Pain– Feeling pain in the abdominal region before, during and after going to the bathroom. This includes excessive experiencing gas and/or bloating.
- Bowel Movements– After going to the bathroom, you feel as though you could push out more, yet you have nothing else to expel, but the feeling of not finishing remains and is uncomfortable.
- Belching – Burping more than you might consider your normal levels. Again, this speaks of the normal range, which can be subjective, but it would seem that you could easily determine if you are burping an inordinate number of times during the day. It is also likely that your friends would also alert you to this abnormal behavior if you began doing so.
- Bloating – The feeling of being full can remain much longer than usual. It can be due to water weight or from chewing gum, which can cause air bubbles in your stomach.
- Abdominal Noise- Loud sounds coming from your abdominal region, and loud sounds that last longer than mere stomach growls.
- Abdominal distention
Symptoms that do not relate to IBS
The following symptoms are not generally related to irritable bowel syndrome; therefore, if you experience any of the following issues, contact your physician as soon as possible for a checkup:
- Blood in your stool.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Being overly tired.
- Losing weight.
- Fatigue that waxes and wanes.
- IBS does not have the potential to develop into colorectal cancer.
What Are Normal Bowel Movements?
Every person is unique. This uniqueness carries over to bowel movements as well. Determining how many bowel movements is a normal number of bowel movements for a person has quite a range. Three times a day up to three times a week is all within the normal range for bowel movements.
- Diarrhea: If you have loose bowel movements on a three-plus a day schedule, you are likely suffering from diarrhea.
- Constipation: If you have dry, hard bowel movements on a three minus a day schedule, you are likely suffering from constipation.
In both of the above conditions, you will know you are experiencing the proper bowel movements when you have no hard or loose stools or you do not need to strain excessively during elimination.
How Do Doctors Know Who Has IBS?
Regular check-ups are the best way to be ahead of IBS. As you age, different diseases may make themselves known. IBS, for instance, tends to not manifest itself until around the age of 50. But this age is still an estimate, and it does not mean that IBS won’t or can’t be diagnosed earlier.
Regular check-ups are important in case more serous conditions are lurking in your body. Catching these diseases as early as possible is key. During these check-ups, it would be helpful to undergo a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy- as these can yield information about colon cancer.
- Sigmoidoscopy – This procedure is performed so a doctor can look inside the colon and rectum. The desired area of interest is between the large intestine and the rectum.
- Colonoscopy – This procedure looks at the inner lining of the large intestine.
Diet and some medication may provide a degree of relief in IBS, but this should not detract from the fact that regular monitoring is necessary. The elderly need to take note of the development of any warning signs, as this may be the first indication that the condition previously diagnosed as IBS is in fact a more serious underlying disorder.
Prompt diagnosis and early treatment of conditions, such as colorectal cancer can greatly reduce the chances of the cancer spreading or growing. It could minimize complications and even mean a longer lifespan.
As with many medical conditions, they cannot be diagnosed without a myriad of tests. IBS is no different. One must be thoroughly examined before treatment can occur. The following provides the actions a doctor would take to diagnose IBS. The steps are not necessarily in any specific order. These steps help include or exclude other conditions, as well:
- History – The doctor will take a complete medical history of the patient.
- Exam – A physical examination also needs to be recorded.
- Additional tests as specified by your doctor.
- Stool Sample – This is to check for pathogens, blood and other telltale substances.
- Blood Testing – Always a necessary test, as your blood can reveal the true problem.
- X-Rays – May be necessary if other tests reveal something serious.
- Endoscopy– May be necessary if other tests show there may be an issue with your esophagus.
Diagnosing IBS occurs when other conditions have been ruled out. A condition that impacts the abdominal area, causes irregular bowel movements and bloating and cannot be labeled any other disease is termed IBS.
Is it IBS or Something More Serious?
Because IBS affects a range of aged-people, diagnosis is important. For senior or elderly individuals, a diagnosis is particularly important because of other bowel disorders that are common amongst older adults. Most doctors will only make a final diagnosis of the condition if you have experienced IBS symptoms for at least six months. Additionally, IBS symptoms need to have been experienced three times a month, as well.
There are more serious disorders that exist that must be ruled out during diagnosis. These more serious conditions include colon cancer. But diagnosis is not as simple as it might seem. Colon cancer can be missed because it is not yet detectable in the body. But keeping up with check-ups involving IBS will most definitely help with the prevention of more serious bowel conditions in the body.
Yes, You Can: Live Life to the Fullest with IBS
Experiencing Irritable Bowel Syndrome does not need to be a life-altering condition. Individuals who suffer from it can make major and mostly minor changes in their daily lives to reduce painful episodes of IBS.
Seniors who suffer from the condition are no different than the many individuals of varying other ages who might be prone to diarrhea or constipation episodes.
From adding daily exercise, consuming more fiber, to flushing your system with cool refreshing water, you have many ways to manage your IBS. Getting more rest and eating better is easy to implement in your daily life, but it takes time, so be patient and consistent.