What Is A Spastic Colon? Symptoms, Causes, And What To Do Next

Spastic colon is a term the medical community previously used to describe what's known today as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder affecting the digestive system. It's estimated that between 25 and 45 million people in the United States suffer from IBS.¹

IBS can cause symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, though many people with IBS find relief with diet and lifestyle changes.

If you've been suffering from symptoms associated with spastic colon or IBS, learn more about what causes it and when you should contact your doctor. 

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What is a spastic colon?

A spastic colon can describe contractions, or spasms, of the muscle tissue in your large and small intestines. Frequent contractions of the intestines could lead to diarrhea, while less regular contractions could cause constipation.

The term spastic colon was once used to describe IBS, a common gastrointestinal disorder. IBS is no longer called spastic colon, as spasms in the intestines can be just one of the many factors leading to IBS symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Irregularity in bowel movements, including constipation and diarrhea

  • Bloating from excess gas in your digestive system

  • Pain in your abdomen, especially when pressure is applied

  • Feeling an urgent need to evacuate your bowels

  • Feeling like you can't empty your bowels entirely

  • Mucus in your stool due to inflammation

Many of these symptoms are associated with other gastrointestinal issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or diverticulitis. It's important to speak to your doctor about your symptoms so they can ensure there are no other underlying causes or health concerns.

What causes spastic colon?

The cause for IBS or spastic colon is still unknown. However, there is evidence that it may be linked to:

  • An imbalance of healthy bacteria in your digestive tract

  • An issue of how your intestine receives messages from your brain

  • Hypersensitivity of the nerves in the gastrointestinal tract

Statistically, you are more likely to experience the symptoms of IBS² if you are female, under the age of 50, and have a family history of IBS or a history of food sensitivity.

While the exact cause of IBS remains unclear, many things can trigger the symptoms. These triggers can vary from patient to patient. Some common IBS triggers include stress, certain foods and drinks, eating large meals, or even taking certain antibiotics, antidepressants, and over-the-counter medications.

You can help alleviate your IBS symptoms by keeping a food diary and tracking your mood. This may help you uncover patterns in your diet and lifestyle that contribute to IBS flare-ups. 

How to calm a spastic colon

Because the causes of this gastrointestinal disorder are still unknown, there are no specific medical treatments for IBS or spastic colon. However, many people can ease their symptoms and calm a spastic colon with the help of changes to their diet and lifestyle, including:

  • Eating more fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

  • Increasing water intake by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day

  • Decreasing dairy intake, which means avoiding cheese and milk 

  • Eating smaller meals more often throughout the day

  • Keeping a food diary to find patterns of foods that cause your IBS symptoms to flare up

  • Taking a probiotic to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your digestive system

  • Using mindfulness and meditation techniques to decrease stress and anxiety 

  • Attending cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to learn new methods of coping with stress and anxiety

Identifying what triggers your IBS symptoms can be an effective way to discover how to calm a spastic colon. Common triggers for IBS include stress, red peppers, red wine, cow's milk, and certain prescription medications. If you are having trouble discovering what's causing your IBS symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may recommend testing that can help you uncover food sensitivities or other underlying issues. 

When to see a doctor

The symptoms of IBS or a spastic colon can range from very mild to being severe enough to interfere with your job or personal life. If the symptoms of IBS are severe enough that they are interfering with your life, make an appointment with your doctor.

You should also make an appointment if your symptoms aren't severe, but diet and lifestyle changes aren't easing them. Your doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan, recommend new treatment options, and determine triggers that worsen your symptoms. Your health care professional may also be able to prescribe medication to ease your symptoms, including diarrhea and constipation.

It's important to know that IBS and spastic colon share symptoms with other medical conditions, such as IBD and diverticulitis. Because of this, your doctor may recommend a series of health assessments and diagnostic tests to determine if there are other underlying health concerns.

Contact your doctor right away if you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, fever, vomiting, or blood in your stool. 

The lowdown

While there are no known causes for IBS, people with a history of food sensitivities are more likely to be diagnosed. Diet and lifestyle changes can help ease your symptoms, but if they don’t, it’s best to seek an appointment with your doctor. They can prescribe medication that may help with your symptoms and test for other underlying health concerns that may be causing your symptoms.

Have you considered clinical trials for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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