Incontinence and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Often Are Related

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April is IBS Awareness Month, as designated by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). Dianna Malkowski of The CareGiver Partnership offers seniors and caregivers an overview of IBS symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

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Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant & Nutritionist

For caregivers, loved ones might find it difficult to discuss the personal topic of IBS.

The IFFGD dedicates the month of April to focusing on health messages about irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis, treatment and quality of life issues. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), as many as 70 percent of people suffering from IBS are not receiving medical care for their symptoms.

“For seniors, diagnosing IBS presents unique challenges, as the condition can be misinterpreted as aging-related changes,” says Dianna Malkowski, physician assistant, nutritionist and professional adviser for The CareGiver Partnership. “For caregivers, loved ones might find this personal topic difficult to discuss.”

IBS symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea, and some individuals may experience depression and anxiety. Incontinence also can be an effect of IBS. While diarrhea can contribute to bowel incontinence, constipation can lead to urinary incontinence, because of the pressure put on the bladder by impacted stool. Individuals with IBS may experience temporary or long-term leakage, which can be managed with products made for incontinence.

The good news is, while IBS can cause severe discomfort, it does not permanently harm the intestines or lead to serious diseases like cancer, according to the NDDIC. Often, IBS can be managed through diet, stress reduction and/or medications.

“If you or someone you care for has symptoms of IBS, your doctor will ask for a complete medical history and a detailed description of symptoms, as well as perform a physical exam,” says Malkowski. “Before changing your diet, note the foods that worsen your symptoms, then discuss with a doctor and possibly a registered dietitian, who can create an eating plan to gradually increase fiber.”

Visit The CareGiver Partnership site for more information on incontinence, and read 5 Ways to Open the Lines of Communication.

Dianna Malkowski is a Board Certified Physician Assistant and Mayo Clinic trained nutritionist specializing in diabetes, cancer, wound healing, therapeutic diets and nutrition support. She serves on the board of professional advisers for The CareGiver Partnership and enjoys working with patients and caregivers alike. Ask Dianna a question.

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Tom Wilson