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What is the Connection Between IBS and Cramps?

Article Details
  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition of the digestive tract that is hallmarked by abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and cramps. Therefore, the primary connection between IBS and cramps is that cramping is a symptom of the condition. They can be caused by several factors, including trapped intestinal gas, compacted stools, or sporadic intestinal contractions.

The exact causes of IBS and cramps related to the condition are not entirely understood. Some research suggests that it may be due to food sensitivities and inflammation of the large intestines. Other underlying causes are still being investigated. While everyone experiences some level of digestive upset at some point, irritable bowel syndrome is related to long-term and chronic cramping and discomfort.

Since IBS and cramps tend to go hand in hand, the first step upon a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome is often to help alleviate some of the discomfort. Patients are advised to begin avoiding certain foods that trigger symptoms, and over the counter or prescription medication may be used to remedy abdominal cramping in the meantime. Most times, cramps are diminished after a bowel movement, so laxatives are a common measure used to reduce pain.

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Intestinal spasms may also be linked to IBS and cramps, although it is not clear how or why they occur. It is normal for the intestines to contract, as this is how food is moved through the digestive tract during normal food digestion. In those with IBS, however, the contractions can cause sporadic muscle spasms, resulting in painful cramping and excess trapped gas.

Cramps related to intestinal gas may be remedied with an over the counter anti-flatulent like simethicone. Spasms are harder to treat, but are often remedied once dietary changes are made. If not, sometimes an anti-inflammatory medication can help. Patients who suffer from IBS and cramps should also maintain an exercise program because studies have shown that physical activity helps to regulate digestion and move waste materials out of the body.

Hyper stimulation may also be caused by diarrhea and may cause severe cramping. Constipation also causes abdominal pain due to compacted stools pushing against the intestinal walls. Both conditions may be improved with dietary changes, and both warrant extra attention to detail when it comes to staying adequately hydrated. Water consumption will not only replenish any lost fluids due to diarrhea, but will help lubricate hard, dry stools to alleviate constipation.

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