Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition of the digestive system that causes pain, cramping and discomfort in your stomach. The frequency & severity of the symptoms will vary from person to person.
IBS is thought to affect about 1 in 5 people in the UK at some time in their lives. Women are often more affected than men.
It isn't known exactly what causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome but it's a long term condition that can often be managed with the right diet and lifestyle.
Your digestive system works by squeezing and relaxing the muscles of the gut to move food through the body.
Symptoms of IBS maybe caused when gut functions become overactive and the function of the gut becomes distressed. This over-activity maybe the cause of pain and abdominal discomfort.
The area of the gut that is distressed may determine exactly where you feel the pain and whether you have symptoms of constipation or diarrhoea.
There are a range of things that are thought to increase your chances of getting IBS,
Diagnosis is usually made by matching your symptoms with the condition, considering your family history and by ruling out other health conditions that have similar symptoms.
A blood test and a stool test are often taken to help rule out other conditions such as Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Coeliac Disease, or a gut infection.
Speak to your GP if you have had any of the following symptoms for at least six months or
A healthy lifestyle with lots of fruits & vegetables and plenty of fluid.
Managing stress levels & finding ways to manage emotional upset. Increasing exercise can sometimes help manage symptoms and help reduce stress.
Recognising stressors that trigger your symproms are often key to symptom management.
Monitoring for certain foods that exacerbate symptoms, keeping a food and symptom diary can help you keep track.
Antispasmodics can help with monitoring the abdominal cramps associated with IBS. There are also medications that can help manage constipation or symptoms of diarrhoea. Speak to your GP or Pharmacist for more information on medications that can help.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT or gut directed hypnotherapy can often help manage psychological impact of stress on the bowel and provide strategies to help manage symptoms.
A more personalised approach to your diet, focusing on your fibre intake and your reaction to certain foods to help you identify trigger foods.
This is a personalised 3 phased dietary approach to identifying foods which exacerbate symptoms. It includes an elimination phase over a period of weeks. This is where a dietitian can help support you to ensure your diet is nutritionally adequate and provide support & guidance as you undertake the diet.
Monash University explains how the low FODMAP diet can help with symptom relief in this short video.