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IBS: Triggers & treatment

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In this article, we will discuss the triggers and treatment options for IBS that pharmacists can use to help their patients manage this condition. 

TRIGGERS 

Several factors can trigger IBS symptoms in patients, and these can vary from person to person. Some of the common triggers of IBS include: 

  • Food: Certain foods and drinks can trigger IBS symptoms, these include caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, fatty foods, spicy foods, and dairy products. 
  • Stress: Stress can increase the sensitivity of the gut and affect gut motility, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel habits. 
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can trigger IBS symptoms in some women. This is because hormones can affect gut motility and sensitivity. 
  • Medications: Certain medications such as antibiotics, antidepressants, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can trigger IBS symptoms in some people. 

TREATMENT 

The treatment options for IBS aim to manage the symptoms and improve the patient's quality of life. These treatment options include: 

Lifestyle modifications: Patients can make certain lifestyle changes to manage their IBS symptoms. These include eating a healthy diet, avoiding trigger foods, staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, and managing stress. Because large meals can make symptoms worse, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai recommends patients eat 4-5 smaller meals per day and suggests extra fibre can help bulk up stools to help with diarrhoea or draw in extra water to help with constipation. 

OTC medications: Recommend OTC medications such as laxatives, antidiarrheals, and antispasmodics to manage IBS symptoms. Laxatives can help with constipation, while antidiarrheals can help with diarrhoea. Antispasmodics can help relieve abdominal pain and cramping. 

Prescription medications: Pharmacists can also prescribe medications such as tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and lubiprostone to manage IBS symptoms. Tricyclic antidepressants can help with abdominal pain, while SSRIs can help with depression and anxiety associated with IBS. Lubiprostone can help relieve constipation. 

Probiotic supplements: “Probiotics have also proven beneficial in IBS patients by slowing down the transit time of the colon, reducing the average number of bowel movements per day, improving stool consistency, overall symptoms, and above all, the quality of life in these patients,” reported Kumar et al. 

Psychological therapies: Some patients may benefit from psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy to manage their IBS symptoms. These therapies can help patients learn coping strategies and manage stress. 

Pharmacists play a vital role in helping their patients manage this condition by educating them about the triggers and treatment options for IBS. By working together with their patients, pharmacists can help improve their symptoms and quality of life. 

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