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Spastic Colon

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Definition

The Spastic colon or Irritable bowel syndrome is a collection of symptoms at the level of the GI tract, representing a disorder of the gastrointestinal kind. The onset of this condition might be triggered by certain factors, such as an infection or a life event that was highly stressful. It has been suggested that the spastic colon occurs because the brain does not communicate correctly to the GI tract; however, this is not the only theory suggested. In other people, it seems that the abnormal GI flora may lead to the appearance of such problems.

The diagnosis of the spastic colon is often made on the symptoms that the patient exhibits. Often times, this condition is found alongside other medical problems, such as chronic constipation, celiac disease, malabsorption or bacterial overgrowth at the level of the intestines. It is important to remember that the spastic colon cannot be treated by its symptoms can be kept under control, the right diet playing an important part in such matters. Even though the spastic colon does not reduce the overall life expectancy, it might have a negative impact on the quality of life.

Spastic Colon Symptoms

These are the most common symptoms that appear with the spastic colon:

  • Pain at the level of the abdomen
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Bowel movements are either accelerated (diarrhea) or slowed down (constipation)
  • The patient might experience the immediate need to have bowel movements
  • Sensation that the bowel movements have not been completely evacuated (this is also known as tenesmus)
  • Bloating is quite frequent, leading to the distension of the abdomen
  • The bowel movements might relieve some of the symptoms
  • Gastroesophageal reflux is present in those who have been diagnosed with a spastic colon

Other symptoms might include:

  • Symptoms of the genital or urinary system
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia-related symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sexual dysfunction – reduction in libido.

Causes

These are considered the potential causes that may lead to the appearance of the spastic colon:

  • Disruption in the communication process between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract
  • Bacterial overgrowth at the level of the intestines
    • Risk of developing a spastic colon increases a lot after a person suffers from an infection at gastrointestinal level
      • Acute gastroenteritis – one of the most common infections of the gastrointestinal tract; leads to the appearance of the spastic colon (predominantly characterized by diarrhea)
    • Bacterial overgrowth can lead to spastic colon (either characterized by diarrhea or constipation)
    • Improper interaction between the immunes system and the intestinal flora
  • Active infection in the body
    • Protozoal infection – blastocystosis
    • Dientamoeba fragilis – potential microorganism involved in the appearance of the spastic colon (further studies are necessary)
  • Physical and physiological abuse in childhood
  • Psychiatric illness
  • Other risk factors include
    • Young age
    • Prolonged fever
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • High levels of stress
    • Prolonged treatments with antibiotics
    • Immunity defect (genetic)
    • Defect of the epithelial homeostasis (genetic).

Treatment for Spastic Colon

These are the most common treatment measures recommended for the symptomatic treatment of the spastic colon:

  • Medication
    • Stool softeners/laxatives
      • Recommended in patients who did not obtain results through changing their diet (increase in fiber uptake)
      • Osmotic laxatives are preferred to other types
      • Lubiprostone – recommended for those who suffer from chronic constipation (advantages of this medication include: does not cause addiction, the body does not become accustomed to it – no reduced efficiency, the concentration of electrolytes in the body is not affected)
      • Purposes of this medication – softening of the stools, increased mobility of the intestines, promotion of bowel movements without effort or straining
    • Medication against diarrhea
      • Opiates, opioids and opioid analogs – mild case of diarrhea
      • Morphine, oxycodone – severe cases of diarrhea
    • Drugs that interfere with serotonin (SSRI type medication)
      • Provide relief from the experienced symptoms
      • Can have, however, adverse effects in some patients (exacerbation of abdominal spasms and accelerated bowel movements – diarrhea)
    • Antipsychotic medication
      • Provide relief from the symptoms – serotonergic properties
      • The accelerated bowel movements are improved, the patient no longer experiences abdominal cramps that are so intense and the overall quality of life is improved
      • Recommended choices – clozapine, olanzapine
    • Antiemetic medication
      • Can improve symptoms such as nausea, reducing the risk of vomiting
    • Serotonin agonists
      • Can help with the symptoms of the spastic colon that is primarily characterized by constipation (due to the fact that serotonin stimulates the mobility of the gut)
    • Serotonin antagonists
      • Can help with the symptoms of the spastic colon that is primarily characterized by diarrhea
    • Antispasmodics
      • Anticholinergics – hyoscyamine, dicyclomine
      • Recommended in patients who suffer from abdominal cramps or accelerated bowel movements
      • Two main categories : Nootropics – phenobarbital, atropine (may cause a lot of side effects) and Musculotropics – mebeverine (direct action on the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, provides relief from the experienced symptoms – cramps); no side-effects, the normal motility of the gut is maintained.
    • Antidepressants
      • Tricyclic antidepressants (low dosage)
    • Other medication
      • Magnesium aluminum silicate
      • Alverine citrate drugs
      • Dopamine receptor blockers (domperidone)
  • Psychological intervention
    • Hypnosis
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Meditation
  • Yoga/tai chi
  • Physical exercise
  • Probiotics
    • Effective on the symptoms of the spastic colon
    • Healthy flora at the level of the intestines
    • Reduced bacterial overgrowth
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture

Diet

The correct diet can contribute to a significant improvement of the symptoms the patient with a spastic colon experiences. In order to benefit from this improvement, you must eliminate harmful carbs from your diet, as these are poorly absorbed by the small intestine. You also need to eliminate the foods that have a high intake of fructose or lactose, as these are difficulty absorbed as well and most people are intolerant to them. The high intake of fiber is definitely recommended for this diet, as it will stimulate the motility of the intestines and it will promote the frequent bowel movements. The fiber intake can be increased through the regular diet of fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber and also by taking dietary supplements.

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Among the foods and beverages that you are not allowed to eat, there are:

  • Bread and cereals (wheat – gluten intolerance)
  • Products that contain refined flour or sugar (chocolate cookies, potato chips)
  • Caffeine-based beverages
  • Sugary carbonated drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy (especially cheese)
  • Foods that have a high protein content
  • Chocolate
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Food that has been fried or has a high fat content
  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Rice.

Remedies

These are the most common remedies you can consider for the symptoms of the spastic colon:

Peppermint oil

  • Reduction of abdominal spasms
  • Rapid relief from the symptoms experienced
  • Recommended choices – capsules

Iberogast

  • Natural remedy – contains lemon balm, chamomile and peppermint
  • Available as drops (natural product with years of successful results)
  • Improves the symptoms of the spastic colon (especially the abdominal pain).

Curcumin

  • Natural product
  • Relief from the symptoms experienced due to the spastic colon
  • Also good for the health of the liver and the heart.


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