What You Need to Know About Spastic Colon
This section explains a spastic colon, including its causes and symptoms. It also details treatments for the condition.
Contractions in the colon’s muscular walls are why solid waste can move out of the body. However, when a spastic colon develops, contractions occur suddenly and more frequently.
These contractions can cause changes in your bowel habits. A spastic colon is not a disease but a symptom of other conditions.
The colon is the longest part of the large intestine and a key part of the digestive system. It performs many important functions, including:
- reabsorbing water, nutrients, and electrolytes from partially digested food
- secreting mucus to bind and lubricate solid waste
- facilitating the transfer of solid waste or stool to the rectum
Several conditions can cause a spastic colon.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS affects your digestive system. It’s one of the main causes of a spastic colon. It also causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation.
Experts do not know the exact cause of IBS. However, they believe that brain-gut interaction, mental distress, and other factors may play a role.
Treatment focuses on easing symptoms and may include fiber supplements, increased physical activity, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Stress can contribute to abdominal pain and altered bowel movements, according to research from 2017. It can also increase your risk of IBS, according to the same study.
Causes of stress include chronic health conditions, working for extended periods, and anxiety.
If you are consistently under stress, your doctor may recommend stress management exercises, such as yoga and meditation.
Ulcerative colitis (UC)
UC develops when atypical immune reactions cause inflammation and sores in the inner lining of your large intestine. It commonly causes a spastic colon, abdominal pain, and bloody stools.
Researchers are uncertain about the exact cause of these immune reactions. However, genetics and environmental factors may be involved.
Treatment can include immunosuppressants and surgery.
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Common symptoms include colon spasms, abdominal cramping, and weight loss.
Your doctor may give you corticosteroids and antibiotics if you have the condition.
An intestinal or bowel obstruction occurs when something blocks your intestines. The blockage can prevent digested products from passing through your intestine. It can also cause a spastic colon, a lack of appetite, and nausea.
Several factors can contribute to intestinal obstruction, including tumors, damaged blood vessels, and hernias.
Treatment includes IV rehydration and surgery.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus forms outside the uterus. It commonly affects women in their 30s and 40s, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
Symptoms include painful periods, excessive bleeding, colon spasms, and constipation. Doctors often use pain relievers and hormone therapy to treat the condition.
A spastic colon commonly causes abdominal pain and bloating. It also causes a feeling of fullness in the rectum. The severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the underlying factor.
Other related symptoms may include:
- mucus in the stool
- changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea and constipation
- loose stool
- a sudden need to have a bowel movement
Contact your doctor if you have concerning symptoms.
To diagnose a spastic colon, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. They may also perform a physical exam of your rectum.
Additional diagnostic tests may include:
- Colonoscopy: Your doctor will use a small, flexible tube to examine your colon. The results will show whether there are any underlying factors.
- CT scan: This will photograph your abdomen and pelvis. It can help rule out other conditions.
- Blood test: Your doctor will take a small sample of your blood for microscopic analysis. The test may reveal whether an infection is causing your symptoms.
- Stool sample culture test: This will study a sample of your stool for signs of infection and other digestive problems.
Treatments for a spastic colon aim to address the root cause. They will also seek to provide relief from symptoms.
- increasing your fiber intake to boost digestive health
- eating a low fat diet to reduce colon irritation
- performing relaxation techniques, such as meditation, to reduce stress
- exercising to boost the health of your GI tract
- avoiding smoking and alcohol to reduce digestive problems
Other treatments may include:
- anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) to relieve diarrhea
- antispasmodic medications, such as dicyclomine (Bentyl) and hyoscyamine (Levsin) to reduce the severity of colon spasms
- fiber supplements and laxatives to control constipation
A spastic colon can cause pain and discomfort. However, it’s usually not a serious or life threatening condition.
The condition may respond to at-home remedies, such as fiber supplements and increased physical activity.
If you have the condition, try to follow your doctor’s treatment plan as closely as possible for prompt recovery.
These practices may help you reduce your risk of a spastic colon:
- increasing your fiber intake
- limiting your fat intake
- managing stress
- avoiding smoking and alcohol
Talk with your doctor before making any dietary changes.
These are a few other common questions about spastic colons. Dr. Joe Soliman has reviewed the answers.
What triggers a spastic colon?
Chronic conditions may cause a spastic colon, including IBS, UC, and endometriosis. Other factors, such as stress or bowel obstruction, may also contribute.
How do you calm a spastic colon?
Depending on the underlying cause, you may be able to calm a spastic colon by taking antispasmodic medications, increasing your fiber intake, or managing your stress.
A spastic colon is when the muscles in the intestines tighten atypically. Causes include stress, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ulcerative colitis.
People with a spastic colon may experience abdominal pain and bloating. They may also experience changes in their bowel movements, including diarrhea and constipation.
Doctors often diagnose a spastic colon by reviewing your symptoms and medical history. They may also conduct a physical exam and some lab tests.
Treatments include managing stress, increasing fiber intake, and adopting a low fat diet.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms of a spastic colon.