What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?


What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

  • November 7, 2020



Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common disorders that physicians encounter in their day-to-day practice. As the name suggests, it is a condition that interferes with the normal functioning of the bowels or the intestines. IBS is characterized by a group of symptoms – crampy abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. Ayurveda defines it under the ‘grahani dosha’, where the learned masters have dealt with  many other  disorders related to the malfunctioning of the small and large  intestines.  

Causative factors –   Though a number of factors are held responsible for the occurrence of IBS, yet no one exactly knows about its definite causes. Modern researchers believe that people with IBS  have a colon that is more sensitive and reactive to a number of things, including certain  foods and stress. Altered motility of the intestines, muscle contractions, weakened immune and disturbed nervous system  result in to the fastened or slower  movements of the intestinal  contents. The end result is – too much fluid in the stool due to the  poor absorption  or  constipation occurring due to the sluggish propulsion and more absorption of the liquid contents. Sometime both of these conditions  occur alternately.  

Ayurveda attributes IBS as a sequel to  ‘mandagni’ or the weakening of the digestive fire. ‘Grahani’ or the lower end of the stomach and the upper  part of small intestine  is said to be the seat of ‘agni’ which is deranged by a number of factors. These include irrational  fasting, eating during indigestion, over-eating or irregular eating and more often consuming food which is unsuitable, heavy, sticky or is too cold, too unctuous or too dry. Habitual suppression of  natural body urges, abuse of laxatives and continuous  anxiety can also unhinge the ‘agni’ which ultimately results into a condition where a person  becomes  unable  to digest even  the simple food. 

Sign and symptoms – Like the complexity of its causes, the  presentations of IBS are equally intricate and confusing  and vary from one person to the other. Abdominal discomfort or pain in association with the bowel dysfunction is the main symptom of the IBS.  Some people experience frequent loose stools  with an urgent need to move the bowels, others complain of constipation  with hard or difficult to pass stool. Yet there are those  who complain of  alternating constipation and diarrhea and  acidity or  gas in the intestines which gives a feeling of pressure inside the abdomen.  

Certain psychological  commotions like stress, tension and  feeling troubled, angry, overwhelmed or exited   stimulates colon spasms in people suffering from IBS. Many times and specially in the elderly persons  these upheavals  take a vicious turn  and a stage is reached when physical  symptoms of IBS are equally marked with a   number of  psychological  presentations. In some cases the sufferer may become so conscious of his condition that traveling or visits to a place without toilet access becomes difficult.  

Patients of IBS may also complain of malaise, general run down, pain in calf muscles and a low self esteem. Acharya Sushruta,  has described indigestion, reduced desire to enjoy food, distaste of mouth and acidity accompanied by anxiety and depression  as additional symptoms of IBS.