Guys, we have all been there, we have our significant other out of the town, maybe for the first time in a while. You’ve got the favorite outfit. You’re going to your favorite restaurant. Then, you are headed to your favorite cinema, or your favorite spot to get away from the realities we call life.
That’s when it happens. You know it. The bloating, the cramping, the intense pain and discomfort in your abdomen. Except for you it’s not because you ate or drank too much.
You try to play it off and act like nothing is going on. It truly hurts and it isn’t just indigestion or gas. It isn’t necessarily a ‘trip to the hospital severe’, but it sure isn’t ‘let’s do a night on the town anyway’ comfortable.
For you and over ten million other American men, it is a real problem, and beyond the physical discomforts and inconveniences that accompany IBS, there is the embarrassment that naturally accompanies and clouds the severity of this disorder. Because of the embarrassment, you don’t want to talk about it, but because of the seriousness, you need to talk about it.
We are going to take a deeper look and see if we can help men just like you with managing IBS in their lives and doing it routinely. We want to focus on understanding IBS to achieve better results and live more comfortable lives.
What are some IBS Symptoms in Men?
IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is sometimes called spastic colon, mucus colitis and nervous colon syndrome. It is a very uncomfortable, painful, and often times, embarrassing disorder that affects approximately thirty million Americans and millions more around the world each year. It is defined by abdominal pain or discomfort along with an altered bowel habit of chronic or recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or both.
IBS does not discriminate and affects men, women, and children of all ages. However, the disorder has different symptoms and is expressed differently between male and female sufferers.
Unfortunately, if you are diagnosed with IBS, there is currently no known cause and therefore no known cure. It is thought that various foods, medications, and/or even stress are the triggers for an IBS episode. On a lighter note, there are several treatments, that include medication and counseling, available to help relieve some of the pain and discomfort it may bring.
In reality, there is no anatomical differences to be seen in the intestines of men and women, but there are some significant differences in symptoms and challenges that accompany the different genders.
As we look further into this disorder, let’s review some IBS symptoms in men:
• Abdominal cramps or pain: Your abdomen of course, is the area of your body below the chest and above your hips. We are generally referring to your stomach area, but not your stomach organ as such. The pain is usually not isolated and can be felt anywhere in the abdominal region. This abdominal pain is not stomach pain.
IBS pain has a direct correlation with how your bowels move. The pain is generally attributed to an altered bowel habit. This means there could be relief or less discomfort after you have a bowel movement. The pain or discomfort could begin as the frequency of your bowel movements change. It doesn’t matter whether they become more frequent or less frequent. It could also correlate to changes in your stool, whether it is harder or softer.
Abdominal pain and suffering can be mild to severe discomfort or pain scale. Words to describe the pain would be ‘cramp’ or ‘cramp-like’, ‘stabbing’, or ‘sharp’, all the way to a ‘migraine in the stomach’. As you may already know, this is a wide range and levels of pain or discomfort.
• Abdominal gas: Most of the time, we relate the causes of abdominal gas and/or gas pain to taking in too much air as we eat or blame it on the foods we take in. However, abdominal gas can be a symptom of IBS that is not caused by too much air or any specific food. This is also perhaps one of the most, if not the most, embarrassing aspects of IBS.
It is usually pretty humorous when a baby passes gas, uncontrollably. It is considered a natural sign of the digestive process. When we become adults, we are, at the very least, expected to be able to control when and where we belch and hopefully, be less flatulent. Unfortunately, as you know, it is not always that simple.
To treat the symptom of Abdominal Gas, you can begin by closely monitoring your diet and avoiding foods, or at least in higher quantities, that cause your gas. Keep a food journal and track what foods may be causing your symptoms.
There are some over-the-counter medications that may also help to reduce both the frequency and/or odor of your flatulence. Products like Gas-X, Mylanta Gas, and Phazyme contain Simethicone, which is a foaming agent that works to make belching easier. These products do not have any effect on intestinal gas, however.
• Alternating constipation and diarrhea: This symptom of IBS is perhaps one of the most confusing because of the contrast in extremes. You swing from can’t stop going to can’t go and then back again. It is classified as part of the altered bowel habit as well. The extreme changes are, of course, the altered part of the equation, and detrimental to your bowel health.
With Constipation and/or Diarrhea, your main bowel habit can change over time and alter compared to your main or normal bowel habit. The altered state can be referring to a change over time or during any sudden flare-up in your symptoms.
Medically speaking, Constipation usually means: that you may have infrequent stool; you could face difficulty or straining with your stools; you could face the sensation of wanting to pass stool but unable to do so; or, you could have a feeling of being unable to completely empty your bowel movement.
When we refer to Diarrhea, and none of us really want to, from a medical perspective, we are generally speaking of: you having severe gas; equally severe abdominal pain; you may also be bothered by sudden and/or frequent urges to have bowel movements; and, these bowel movements are usually very loose stools, if not nearly completely liquid in nature. There could also be a feeling of nausea that accompanies the symptoms of diarrhea.
• Bloating: This frequent symptom of IBS is formally referred to as Abdominal Distention. It is a symptom that is most usually classified as more of nuisance than as a severe impact of IBS, but that does not make it more comfortable to bear.
Generally, most IBS patients suffering from Bloating consistently report that they wake with a flat stomach. It progressively increases through out the day to the distention state. There are no definitive treatments for Abdominal Distention. However, monitoring your diet with smaller and more regular meals along with participating in regular exercise seems to help minimize this symptom of IBS.
How to Help IBS Symptoms
As we look at the ways to help or treat your IBS symptoms, we must acknowledge once again that there are no known cures for IBS. It is a long-term condition that will have symptom flair-ups over and over again. The treatments we will discuss are to help alleviate the pain and discomfort, as well as minimize the frequency of your symptoms.
Symptoms of IBS in Men – The 3 classifications:
• Mild Symptoms are infrequent and sometimes interfere with daily life activities.
• Moderate Symptoms occur more frequently and with more intensity and more often interfere with daily life activities.
• Severe Symptoms are very intense and very frequent and chronically interfere with daily functions and living.
It is recommended for all symptoms and levels of sufferers that you begin by tracking your lifestyle with IBS in a Symptom Journal. By logging your meals and symptoms, you will be able to track your eating habits and any potential uncooperative foods that could potentially be causing your IBS.
As always, you will need to work with your physician and develop a plan to treat your symptoms of IBS. They, together with your pharmacist, can recommend and prescribe medicines that will enable you to live a more comfortable life.
For treatments of pain, consult your physician about antispasmodics to be taken before your meals to provide a short-term reduction in abdominal pain after you eat. Peppermint Oils have also been used in conjunction with the antispasmodics to enhance their effectiveness.
The use of probiotics, often found in yogurt, have also shown some effectiveness at reducing and/or relieving bloating and pain associated with bloating.
To help relieve the effects of constipation, you may be able to use a water-soluble fiber supplement. If something more serious is needed to help, contact your physician to have him/her prescribe a laxative.
Loperamide is recommended to help you if the symptom of diarrhea is affecting you. Again, consult your physician and/or your pharmacist for the best sources to use.
It is imperative that you take care of your mental wellbeing along with the required physical treatments. Do not hesitate to consult your physician for a referral to a counselor to help you and your loved ones cope with the lifestyle adjustments that may be required to battle your IBS disorder.