6 Things You Need to Know About IBS
According to studies, two out of ten people in the UK will suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) during their lifetime, with women twice as likely to suffer as men. And yet, it’s still a subject that many of us feel uncomfortable talking about. For those who suffer from IBS, symptoms can be sporadic, leaving many sufferers feeling anxious about when it could next flare-up.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system and causes a wide range of debilitating symptoms. With the causes still relatively unknown, the symptoms, diagnosis and management of IBS can often be tricky to navigate.
What causes IBS?
There’s still a lot we don’t know about IBS. While there doesn’t seem to be a genetic cause, the most common triggers can be bouts of gastroenteritis or stress and anxiety. In others, certain foods, such as wheat, dairy, or sugars can worsen symptoms. For many, once they have exhibited symptoms, other factors such as stress, irregular mealtimes, or an unbalanced diet can provoke symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
IBS is defined clinically by abdominal pain, bloating and wind, plus changes in bowel habits such as constipation, diarrhoea, or both. Sufferers may find that their symptoms worsen during times of stress, after eating certain foods or during their menstrual cycle.
When IBS flares up, it can often cause other symptoms such as fatigue, indigestion, trouble sleeping, headaches and lower back pain.
How is it diagnosed?
There’s no test to diagnose IBS definitively. Your doctor will likely start by assessing your medical history before completing a physical exam and tests to rule out other conditions, such as Coeliac Disease. They will likely then discuss the symptoms you’ve experienced over the last several months, so it can often be helpful to keep a diary. IBS is medically defined as recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort and a marked change in bowel habits for at least six months, with symptoms experienced on at least three days of at least three months.
What treatments are available?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS but managing your diet is one of the most common recommendations made by GPs, occasionally alongside psychological therapy for stress. It may be worth considering working with a nutritionist to identify your trigger foods. This will involve experimenting with your diet by eliminating various ingredients to understand what works for you. As symptoms improve, foods can be reintroduced to your diet until specific triggers are recognised.
Medication – both over the counter and on prescription – works for a small number of people, helping to reduce bowel spasms or relieve constipation. However, this can often be a case of trial and error.
Many people find that their symptoms improve once they start having meals at regular intervals that include the right vitamins and minerals and eating slowly rather than on the go. Keeping active, taking a probiotic and reducing stress levels can also be very helpful.
If you’re experiencing IBS symptoms, our team of specialist staff – including our GP and nutritionist – can help. Click here to enquire or to book a consultation.
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Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.