April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) awareness month so we thought we’d share some information since studies have indicated that IBS may affect up to 10% of elderly people population in Canada.
What is IBS?
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common chronic condition that affects the digestive system.
It causes symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhoea, gas, bloating, constipation or a mix of these. While most people with IBS have mild symptoms with occasional flare-ups, some people who have more critical, severe symptoms.
While some people have found success managing their IBS through diet, stress management and lifestyle, often symptoms require medical treatment to manage.
Though IBS is chronic that requires lifelong management, there is some good news — IBS is doesn’t change bowel tissue or increase risk of colorectal cancer.
In seniors, there is some risk of misdiagnosis, so it’s extra important to keep up with your regular checkups to make sure that more other or more conditions are found right away.
What are the Causes?
Most medical professionals suggest there is no specific root cause for IBS, but, it is believed that it is brought on by changes with digestion. For example, if someone recently had an infection in the intestines (before the onset of IBS symptoms), IBS has been known to follow.
Genetics also seem to be a major factor, a family history of IBS means you are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.
Food allergies and intolerance also seem to influence the onset of IBS. But, psychological stress appears to be one of the most significant factors, especially in seniors.
Prevention and Management
While some seniors believe that IBS or any intestinal discomfort is a natural part of aging, but that is completely untrue.
In fact, healthy living in general, can help improve the overall quality of life for seniors and alleviate symptoms of IBS and other intestinal discomfort.
- Reduce stress: Seniors may be more affected by stress than younger people. Reducing stress as much as possible in daily life will also reduce IBS flare-ups. Check out our blog on Self Care for Seniors for some tips. https://www.canes.on.ca/blog/self-care-seniors
- Exercise: Even small amounts of mild exercise will help with many health issues and it will also help with IBS. Walking, yoga and other peaceful, low-impact exercises are ideal for managing this disease.
- Changing Diet: A diet free of the foods that are triggers for IBS will improve the incidence of flare-ups greatly. You can certainly control foods eaten at home, and work to manage diet when eating in other places.
- Medication/Supplements: Your healthcare team is there to help! Your doctor may prescribe medications and/or supplements to help alleviate and control your IBS.
Never mix supplements with prescribed medication without talking to your doctor first. It’s important to remember that some supplements can counteract with your regular medications.
It’s important to remember that irritable bowel syndrome is pretty common, and although its symptoms are unique to the individual diagnosed, there are ways to live with it. Identifying the triggers, will help you can manage IBS and live life live much more comfortably and happily.