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Home :: Colon, Irritable

Colon, Irritable

An irritative and inflammatory disorder involving the large and small intestines. It is not contagious, inherited or cancerous-but it probably is stress-related. Flare-ups may be triggered by approaching competitive events.


  • Stress and emotional conflict prior to athletic competition, resulting in anxiety or depression.
  • Obsessive worry about everyday problems or about self-image.
  • Concern about performance.
  • Marital tension.
  • Fear of loss of a beloved person or object.
  • Death of a loved one.
  • Improper diet. Symptoms may be triggered by eating, though no specific food has been identified as responsible.
  • Smoking.
  • Excess alcohol consumption.
  • Use of drugs.
  • Fatigue or overwork.
  • Poor physical fitness.

Signs and symptoms

The following symptoms usually begin in early adult life. Episodes may last for days, weeks or months:

  • Cramp like pain in the middle or to one side of the lower abdomen. Pain is usually relieved with a bowel movement.
  • Nausea.
  • Bloating and gas.
  • Occasional appetite loss that may lead to weight loss.
  • Diarrhea or constipation, usually alternating.
  • Fatigue.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Concentration difficulty.


  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory studies, including stool studies, to exclude other disorders such as lactose intolerance, ulcers, parasites, enzyme deficiency and ulcerative colitis.
  • X-ray of the colon (barium enema).


Medical Treatment-

  • Medication.
  • Counseling with a trained therapist to define, confront and solve conflicts in day-to-day living.
  • Anxiety-reducing measures, such as regular exercise
  • Low-dose antidepressants
  • Anti-diarrheal medications

Home Treatment

  • Diet changes.
  • Adequate rest.


  • Medication can help symptoms, but it cannot cure this disorder. Your doctor may prescribe:
  • Antispasmodics to relieve severe abdominal cramps.
  • Tranquilizers to reduce anxiety.

Reduce stress or try to modify your response to it. An exercise program without competition may protect against flare-ups because it reduces stress.

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