What is Severe IBS?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 March 2020
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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common ailment that involves flares of abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and constipation or diarrhea. Most people who have IBS only experience minor, infrequent symptoms. Severe IBS, however, is a chronic problem in which symptoms can be bad enough to significantly impair a person's ability to enjoy a normal life. There is not a reliable cure for severe IBS, but a doctor can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms and suggest lifestyle changes that may help a person learn to better manage his or her condition.

It is not always clear what causes severe IBS to develop. It is most commonly seen in adolescents and young adults, and more often afflicts females than males. Problems are thought to be related to neurological disorders that affect muscle contractions in the intestines. Abnormal contractions can cause waste to pass through the long intestine quicker or more slowly than it should, which irritates the lining and causes IBS symptoms. Stressful conditions, alcohol, dairy products, and spicy foods are common triggers of mild or moderate IBS, but people who suffer from severe problems tend to experience symptoms regardless of what they eat or what their emotional states might be.


The most common symptoms of severe IBS include stomach cramps, tenderness in the abdomen, and bloating. Some people have excessive gas and diarrhea episodes several times a day. Frequent diarrhea can lead to dehydration, fatigue, and other health problems. Constipation may also occur that lasts for several days and causes loss of appetite and nausea. Painful hemorrhoids inside or outside of the rectum can develop that make it uncomfortable to sit and walk.

A person who experiences gastrointestinal problems for more than a few days should visit a doctor. The physician can ask about symptoms and try to rule out other possible causes, such as lactose intolerance or inflammatory disorders such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. In order to confirm a diagnosis, a patient may need to undergo a colonoscopy so the doctor can look for damage to the large intestine.

A number of different treatment options are available to help people manage severe IBS. Antispasmodics are drugs that calm nerve signals in the bowels that trigger muscle contractions. A patient may also be given anti-diarrhea drugs; laxatives; or topical ointments to ease hemorrhoid pain. Doctors also help patients identify and avoid foods that seem to make symptoms worse. Counseling is suggested for many people to help them maintain positive attitudes and learn how to better manage stress in their lives.


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Post 3

I have been taken Imipramine for 26 years. I have IBS-D and the Imipramine has been a life saver making everything regular. I started at 110mg and over the years have gotten that down to 30mg with not many ill effects. I still have to avoid trigger foods like rhubarb, cabbages, onions, beans. When there is severe stress I have to up the dosage but usually no more than 10-20mg. If I go lower than the 30mg usually get the IBS-D attacks. When I do have an attack I take one or two extra strength Tylenol and a hot water bottle and after about 20-30 minutes I feel a lot better. One thing I really suffer with when I do get an attack is severe severe nausea and feel nauseated in my head down to my feet and have major hot flushing/sweating. Everything I read about IBS, not too many people have that?

Post 2

Nothing will help me. About 50 percent of people with IBS get no relief no matter what they do, my GI told me. This is hell!

Post 1

I have found that stress really is a huge trigger for me. When paired with eating common comfort foods (chocolate, ice cream, fast food) the results can be disastrous! It is very important to seek ibs treatment with a qualified professional in order to sort out exactly what the worst triggers are for an individual. Doctors and nutritionists can help determine the 'triggers' that are present in a particular case.

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