Also known as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, most types of spastic colon have no known cause. In some cases, spastic colon can be caused by viral illness or parasitic infection, with symptoms that mimic irritable bowel syndrome. These types of illnesses usually resolve within three to six months, while IBS is usually a chronic illness that has no cure. Despite this, many people with the disease find they can manage symptoms with lifestyle modification and medication.
People with IBS commonly experience symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation, gas and bloating, cramping and abdominal pain, and pain during bowel movements. They may often experience sudden strong urges to have a bowel movement. These symptoms are caused due to the fact that food moves quickly or too slowly through the digestive system, because the intestines squeeze with too much or too little force.
Symptoms of spastic colon often get worse under certain circumstances. People who are under even minor stress can find their symptoms worsen. Poor diet or eating large meals can also trigger symptoms. In addition, many people find they have certain trigger foods which always cause symptoms to worsen, regardless of the overall state of their diet. For many women, symptoms worsen during their menstrual period.
Once spastic colon has been diagnosed, the best form of treatment is prevention. Lifestyle modifications and dietary changes can help improve symptoms significantly. Eliminating cigarettes and alcohol, as well as foods high in sugar or fat, and any other trigger foods, can help improve intestinal health. Adopting a high-fiber diet is useful for reducing the frequency and severity of diarrhea and constipation. Drinking plenty of water is also helpful, as is eating more frequent, smaller meals, instead of three main meals. In addition, probiotic foods can help restore normal bowel function.
Finally, it is important to avoid the use of laxatives, even when constipation is a common symptom. Using laxatives may provide some temporary relief from symptoms, but frequent use can harm intestinal function. This is because when laxatives are used, the intestines don’t need to function. Over time, the intestines progressively weaken through lack of use; eventually, the digestive system becomes dependent on laxatives to function at all.
There are some medications a doctor can prescribe to alleviate the symptoms of spastic colon. These include antispasmodic medications which can reduce cramping, such as dicyclomine and hyoscyamine. A doctor can also prescribe Imodium, a brand-name medication which helps reduce the severity of episodes of diarrhea. Many people with IBS experience frequent feelings of anxiety or may become depressed; a doctor can also prescribe antianxiety or antidepressant medication for these problems.