What is Spastic Colon?
Spastic colon is also called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that affects your digestive system3. IBS is a common disorder that manifests with symptoms like abdominal pain, abdominal cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.
“Spastic colon” is a term that is often used to describe an increase in the spontaneous contraction or motility of muscles within the small and large intestines often associated with IBS. Such contractions may also be referred to as spasms.
A point to note here is that because IBS may also show decreased mobility, use of the term spastic colon to mean IBS may not always be accurate.
Fig: Images showing normal colon and spastic colon.
Symptoms of spastic colon vary among different individuals. Some individuals can have abdominal pain and stomach cramps. Other symptoms you can experience include:
It causes swelling or increase in your abdominal region. You feel a tight abdomen which can lead to abdominal pain.
You can experience unpleasant feeling in your throat that cause vomiting.
You find it difficult to move bowel or sometimes bowel occur irregularly.
You can have diarrhea, which is characterized by watery and loose stool. It’s important to understand that spastic colon or IBS usually doesn’t cause weight loss, fever, bleeding, and ongoing severe pain.
If you experience these symptoms, it could indicate a more serious problem.
What Triggers Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
There are some foods that can aggravate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You should avoid foods that worsen bloating in your body such as cruciferous vegetables and legumes. Examples of these foods include:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have constipation and diarrhea. Constipation and diarrhea are also associated with certain foods.
Foods that cause diarrhea are usually rich in fat and Fomaps,Fodmaps are a collection of carbohydrates and sugar alcohol found naturally in food or in some food addictives, for example fructose, lactose, and fructans. You should avoid the following foods when you are having diarrhea:
- Fruits like pears
Some individuals can be sensitive to some of the FODMAPs while for other individuals, a high diet in FODMAPs can cause diarrhea and bloating. For constipation, avoid foods that generally make you to dehydrate faster because they worsen your symptoms of constipation.
Gastroenteritis is a condition caused by bacteria or virus that causes inflammation of your intestinal lining. It spreads when a person eats or drinks contaminated food and water, or you come in contact with an infected person.
A person with gastroenteritis experiences diarrhea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, higher body temperatures (fever), chills and headache. The most common problem of gastroenteritis is that a person loses a lot of water (dehydration). Dehydration occurs when you take little water and it is more common in young children, the elderly, and people with a weak immune system.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
This is a condition where a certain type of bacteria found in your colon moves into your small intestines and grows in population.
It is occurs when your intestinal muscles or nerves are dysfunctional or there is an obstruction in the intestine. This condition causes abdominal pain and bloating in some people. It can also cause diarrhea and when severe, it leads to weight loss in some people.
Spastic colon is diagnosed through exclusion method. This is where your doctor conducts other tests on you to rule out causes due to other medical conditions.
To ensure that the symptoms of IBS you are experienced are not being caused by another serious condition, a doctor may perform the follow tests:
This is to check if there is presence of blood in stool, which could be an indication of a serious ailment.
This uses a thin tube that is flexible. The tube is about two feet long and is used to examine the rectum and the lower intestine. This tube is affixed a camera and a light at the tip. Images are transmitted to a monitor which allows the doctor to see inside the body. This procedure causes only some slight discomfort.
A thin, flexible tube is used by a doctor to examine the large intestines. A camera and a light are affixed at the tip to capture images, which are then transmitted to a monitor to allow the doctor view inside the body.
Barium enema X-ray test
A doctor uses this imaging test to see if there is a problem with the colon. Barium is a substance that is white in color and when used in the test, it makes problem areas affecting the colon to be able to show up on the X-ray images. The barium enema is given to a patient before having the X-ray performed.
In the event that these turn out to be negative, then a doctor may diagnose a patient with IBS if they have had abdominal pain that has lasted for about three months and the abdominal pain
usually relieves after having a bowel movement, it changes how frequently you are having bowel movements, or the pain changes the consistency and appearance of the bowel movements.
There are several treatment and therapies for spastic colon. These treatment methods aim at reducing the pain and symptoms of spastic colon. Your doctor can prescribe the following medications:
These medications are used to control symptoms that come from the intestine such as gut spasm or cramps. There are two types of antispasmodics:
- Antimuscarinics such as atropine and dicycloverine
- Smooth muscle relaxants like Alverine and Mebeverine.
Antimuscarinics are used to stop various chemicals produced by body to stick on receptors on your muscles in order to prevent muscles from contracting. By reducing muscle contraction, you are relieved pain and bloating symptoms. These medications may be unsuitable for people with the following conditions:
- Intestinal obstruction
- Enlargement of the prostate gland
- Pregnant or breastfeeding.
Another way of reducing anxiety is through medications such as antidepressant or anti-anxiety. Antidepressants are drugs that are used to prevent the symptoms of depression. There are several antidepressant medications available, and they work differently and have different complications.
Therefore, selecting right antidepressants requires that you consult your doctor for advice. Your doctor will determine your specific symptoms before prescribing the antidepressants. For example, people with stress have different symptoms like difficult in sleeping. Your doctor will prescribe an antidepressant that is more sedating to relieve symptoms.
You can prevent spastic colon by using any of the following methods:
Eat food rich in fiber to reduce symptoms of constipation. Foods that are rich in fiber include fruits, legumes, cereal, vegetables, and whole bread grain.
Women should eat food that contains 21 to 25 gm of fiber daily, while men should consume between 30 and 38 grams of fiber per day. In addition, you should read food labels carefully to determine the amount of fiber in food. 7
Avoid activities that can cause stress
Most people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have elevated stress and anxiety, which can worsen the symptoms. Therefore, identify the causes of your stress and avoid those causative agents to help you relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Exercise can help people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome to manage physical and emotional triggers and its symptoms. Stress is a trigger for symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Normally, the nerves in your colon regulate contractions of colon muscles to ensure that movement of food is smooth6.
But when you have stress, your nerves are affected and cannot do the job well hence leading to abdominal pain. The following exercises can help you reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as well as manage stress.
Also known as aerobic exercises, they allow the heart to pump oxygenated blood to reach the muscles. These exercises stimulate your breathing and heart rate to elevate to certain levels.
Then you maintain those levels during the exercises session. Cardiovascular exercises help improve your fitness level and emotional health by reducing depression or stress.
These involve making deep breaths from your abdomen to inhale as much oxygen as possible into the lungs. This elevates the amount of oxygen inhaled and thus makes you feel less tense.
These exercises involve combing breathing with stationary and moving poses. There are several types of yoga exercises, so consult your doctor or a physical therapy expert to help you choose the best fit for you. In case you don’t have one, look for beginner yoga classes that teach gentle exercises before transitioning into intense exercises.
Before you do these exercises, consult your doctor so that he or she recommends the best exercise program for you.
- Irritable bowel Syndrome .Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/expert-answers/spastic-colon/faq-20058473
- The basics of constipation. Available at http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-constipation#1
- What Is IBS (Spastic Colon) – Symptoms, Proper Diet, Stress Management. Available at http://www.healthhype.com/what-is-ibs-spastic-colon-symptoms-proper-diet-coping-with-stress.html
- Antispasmodic Medicines. Available at https://patient.info/health/antispasmodic-medicines
- Irritable bowel Syndrome. Available at http://www.emedicinehealth.com/irritable_bowel_syndrome/article_em.htm
- Exercise May Ease Irritable bowel Syndrome Symptoms. Available at http://www.everydayhealth.com/ibs/ibs-and-exercise.aspx
- High-fiber foods. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948
- Gastroenteritis. Available at http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/gastroenteritis#1
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Available at http://www.webmd.boots.com/digestive-disorders/small-intestinal-bacteria-sibo
- Antidepressant. Available at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Antidepressant-drugs/Pages/Introduction.aspx