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Irregular Stools

  Hi, I am a 23 year old female..and I have been suffering from bouts of diahrea since I was about 19.  At least one week out of the month every time I would eat something not 10 minutes later I'm running to the bathroom with painful cramps that were relieved completley by having a bowel movement.  Many times these BM's contained mucous.  I was told by a navy physicinan thta I may have IBS, and was given an appt to a specialist.  I never went out of fear I think, and over the years have learned to live with this by controlling my diet and stress levels.  I still suffer ocassionally.
  My question is though...about 2 weeks ago I became constipated, and to relieve that took Citracel for a couple of days which relieved the constipation.  Ever since then, I have had a normal bowel movement every day without cramping or diahrea or any of my usual symptoms; however, my BM's are much thinner than normal..sometimes as thin as a pencil, or a little thicker.  I do not notice any mucous now or blood that is visible to me.  I also have some slight tenderness in my lower abdomen that only is felt if I press on it....mostly predominant on MY left side.
  Is this normal?  Why the sudden change in my bowel habits?  I have been sitting here for the last two weeks afraid that I have some type of serious disease...
  Another thing you should know..I swear this sounds crazy..but this began the very same day my husband left for sea, which was also the same day we came back from traveling on vacation.  Am I just imagining that something is wrong??  The change in BM's really freaks me out...PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE anyone with some infomation help me..
  I'm afraid of making a pointless trip to the doctor.
Dear  Stacy,
Diarrhea, diarrhea alternating with constipation or constipation are all compatible with a diagnosis of irritable syndrome. Changes in bowel habits can be associated with abdominal pain and mucus in the stool. Exacerbations of irritable bowel syndrome are often triggered by stressful life events. The fact that your bowel habits improved with Citrucel may also suggest the diagnosis. I would recommend  you try to get 25-30 grams of fiber daily. An easy way to do this is to try FIBER ONE cereal 2 oz. daily. If you still have doubts or concerns after trying the fiber, you should see your doctor for further evaluation. Stool cultures can help to rule out infectious diarrhea. Sometimes a flexible sigmoidoscopy (tube with a light and video camera which is introduced into the rectum and advanced up the left colon) can help exclude other causes of prolonged diarrhea. I hope you find this information helpful.
This response is being provided for general informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Always check with your personal physician when you have a question pertaining to your health.
If you would like to be seen at our institution please call 1-800-653-6568 our Referring Physicians' Office and make an appointment to see Dr. Muszkat, one of our experts in Gastroenterology.
*Keywords: irritable bowel syndrome

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