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Fall 2004

Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Improves

Characterized by frequent bouts of abdominal cramping and bloating compounded with either diarrhea or constipation or episodes of each, IBS is a functional disorder—meaning that the bowel does not work properly—and not a disease. Research points to a defect in certain receptors that line the bowel that may be interfering with gastrointestinal contraction and regulation.

 “IBS has no cure, but it can be managed through changes in diet, stress reduction, and, if appropriate, medication,” notes Kirstin Tillisch, M.D., gastroenterologist at UCLA Women’s Digestive Disease Health Center. Certain foods can exacerbate IBS in some patients, including fatty foods, milk products, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks. Conversely, increasing dietary fiber tends to reduce IBS constipation symptoms. Although stress and anxiety do not cause IBS, they can worsen the symptoms.

 “Along with common medications that can decrease the severity of certain IBS symptoms—including laxatives to treat constipation, antidiarrheals to slow bowel contractions and diarrhea, and antispasmodics to decrease pain—medications exist to manage specific types of IBS,” says Dr. Tillisch. Alosetron can help women with chronic severe diarrheapredominant IBS, for whom other therapies have failed. The first drug approved for short-term treatment of women with constipationpredominant IBS, tegaserod maleate, helps bowel motility. Men may also benefit from this medication.

The center is investigating the effectiveness of hypnostress management education, alternative therapies, and dietary supplements to treat IBS.

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