IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system and causes a number of painful and unpleasant symptoms. The underlying cause of IBS is still unclear, but recently it has been considered a brain-gut disorder since psychological factors are often linked to IBS symptoms – stress is a common trigger for IBS flare-ups. People with IBS often have a higher sensitivity or irritability of their gut.
There are several subtypes of IBS, defined by distinctive symptoms:
IBS is caused by problems arising between the gut and the brain, issues have been found with the nervous system supplying the gut which can make it more sensitive. Stress, certain foods and micro-organisms that inhabit the gut, can trigger IBS symptoms. Sometimes IBS can start after a gut infection or use of certain medicines such as antibiotics, but usually, it is not clear how it starts.
There is no proven distinctive pathology; however, IBS does tend to run in the family.
According to the Rome IV criteria which is the latest diagnostic measure for IBS in the UK, it affects an estimated 5% of the population, with women much more likely to be affected than men. IBS is usually a life-long condition, people can experience their first symptoms in their teenage years or early twenties, but the highest prevalence is from 35 to 49 years. IBS symptoms can also vary throughout a person’s life and come and go depending on various lifestyle factors and stress levels.
There is no single treatment for the condition, as it is a variable condition that is different from person to person. However, there are ways to control symptoms, such as diarrhoea and bloating, with symptomatic treatments and changes in diet and lifestyle. A combination of these measures is often referred to as ‘managing IBS’.
IBS is managed through a combination of an individual-specific diet, mental wellbeing, physical activity, symptomatic treatment and various supplements. As this is a very complex condition, any IBS treatment or diet plan, such as an elimination diet, should be supervised by a medical professional.
Whilst there isn’t a fit-for-all diet plan, as the condition tends to vary between people, there is general advice to avoid foods that can trigger your symptoms. Using a food diary can be helpful in identifying these foods. It is also good to eat regularly and avoid fatty, spicy or processed foods, and fizzy drinks and alcohol which can be harmful to a sensitive gut.
While there is no cure for the condition at the present time, treating IBS symptoms can improve people’s overall quality of life and help them lead a more normal work and social life. Depending on their main symptoms, people may be advised to take the following treatments (some of them available as prescription only):
While IBS patients generally suffer from abdominal pain and cramping, usually soon after eating, there are other reported symptoms including back pain. Please follow the link for advice on how to address them: Back pain with IBS
Stressful situations, anxiety or depression can cause the re-occurrence of unpleasant IBS symptoms, making it important for anyone with IBS to look after their mental wellbeing.
Activities that may have a positive effect on stress levels include:
What works for one person with IBS may not work for another, with doctors often recommending a combination of pharmacological and supplementary treatments.
The following treatments are reported to have helped a number of people suffering from IBS:
Being physically active helps motility of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, boost mood and energy levels and improve overall health. It is all the more important for IBS sufferers who have desk jobs. Yoga and other mindful physical activity, such as Tai Chi, can also help in stress management, improving sleep and lowering anxiety.
If you suspect that you have a condition and are looking to get a diagnosis from your GP, please use this symptom diary to prepare for the appointment and give your doctor a record of the symptoms you experience.
A scientifically-developed solution for:
Enterosgel is a drug-free remedy for IBS-D, and diarrhoea with gastrointestinal symptoms.
Taken with water 2 hours before or after food, this taste-free gel acts like a clever sponge to actively soak-up harmful substances in your gut, such as bacterial toxins and viruses before expelling them from your body naturally.
Enterosgel is safe for children from 1 year (1-3 yr on doctor’s advice) and adults, and is available over the counter in 90g tubes for children and 225g tubes for adults or in handy 15g travel sachets.
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