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IBS Medication vs Your Health

Because irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that almost defies diagnosis due to the unusually wide range of symptoms and treatments, the most common sense way of dealing with it is with laxatives. A laxative can be easily defined as a medication that increases bowel function. Laxatives can be broken down into four major categories: fiber, osmotic laxatives, stimulant laxatives and emollients. Since there is no known cure for IBS and treatment for the disease is aimed solely at treating symptoms, many sufferers have to combine two or more forms of treatment.

A steep increase in dietary fiber in a patient?s diet is the most common prescription for dealing with IBS-C. As stated above, however, this doesn?t work for everyone. For those who do experience relief with the use of fiber, studies have shown that fiber helps IBS-C sufferers by helping to ease stool passage and increasing overall satisfaction with bowel movements, but does not help in the ease of pain.

Fiber is not without it?s side effects, either. Increases of flatulence, distension and bloating can lead to a low number of suffers agreeing to fiber treatment, especially during the first few weeks when side effects are at their highest. Studies of IBS patients have shown that the minimum increase in a patients diet for effective use is 12 grams of fiber per day.

As treatment continues, the amount of fiber prescribed increases to 20 or even 25 grams per day over several weeks. To start with, foods rich in dietary fiber should be increased. For patients that do not respond to natural increases in fiber, a second option is the introduction of over the counter fiber supplements into the diet is recommended. If your doctor has decided that an increase in fiber isn?t right for you, other options such as osmotic laxatives and then later stimulant laxatives can be tried. Stimulant laxatives are seen as a last resort because they have the potential for abuse.

Osmotic laxatives are defined as substances that cause an influx of water into the small intestine and colon, helping to clean you out. When used, they begin working in 1-2 days. The most commonly prescribed osmotics are magnesium and phosphate. When taken, the laxatives are only partially absorbed by the small intestine, the leftovers allow water to be pushed into the area and cleansing takes place. But these are not without side effects. Bloating, cramping and flatulence are common with the use of osmotics.

As is the case with every laxative, the concern that the user isn?t absorbing nutrients and is just passing them is valid. When used in excess, osmotics can cause severe diarrhoea and dehydration. Those patients that suffer from kidney or heart disease can suffer even more extreme side effects, such as water volume overload and electrolyte disorders.

Stimulant laxatives should be used only as a last resort. They directly stimulate the nerves in the large intestine and hamper absorption of water. They take effect within hours. The most well known stimulant laxative is castor oil, which can cause severe cramps and diarrhoea.

Emollients can be broken down into two categories, docusates and mineral oil. Docusates allow extra water to enter the stool, thereby making is softer. Mineral oil coats the stool, therefore not allowing water to leave it. Both are effective ways to help IBS-C suffers who are helped by laxatives.

Susan Reynolds has an interest in IBS. For further information on IBS please visit IBS or IBS Symptoms .

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