All you Need to Know About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects the stomach and intestines. It is common disorder, affecting around 1 in 5 adults in the UK. 

What are the Main Symptoms?

Symptoms of IBS include uncomfortable bloating, painful stomach cramps, diarrhoea and constipation. 

Types of IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is commonly classified as one of three types, depending on the main symptom:

How is the Condition Diagnosed? IBS Diagnosis

There is no test that can specifically diagnose IBS, so it will be a case first of ruling out other conditions. To rule out coeliac disease, infections or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), you will need a blood test. With these conditions ruled out, a GP can usually diagnose IBS through your symptom history and may ask you to keep a diary and possibly refer you to a dietitian. 

What can cause an IBS Episode? 

Certain foods can be a trigger for IBS episodes or flare ups; these include spicy foods, fatty/processed foods, dairy and Alcohol. There is also a link between stress and anxiety aggravating IBS symptoms. 

Sometimes, IBS can flare up with no apparent cause.  Keeping a diary to log food intake, mood and symptoms can help you identify any patterns and triggers to your flare ups. 

Will IBS Ever go Away? 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS and it is something that, once diagnosed, is with you for life. That said, people with the condition learn to manage their symptoms and avoid triggering foods  in order to reduce the impact they have on day-to-day life.  

Treatment and how to Manage Symptoms IBS Symptoms

As mentioned above, although there is no cure. There are treatments and over the counter medications to help people manage their symptoms 

For bloating and stomach cramps, medication and/or peppermint oil can help reduce the pain and discomfort.  

If you suffer from constipation, dietary changes and probiotics could help relieve symptoms. Whilst laxatives can help get things moving, they can create long term problems if you build a reliance on them so it is better to relieve constipation through exercise and diet.  

To reduce diarrhoea, you could reduce your intake of high fibre foods and artificial sweeteners and again, a pharmacist may be able to recommend medication that can help. Alternatively, studies have shown that transanal irrigation (TAI) can be an effective treatment for those with IBS-D, but please consult with a healthcare professional to determine if this would be a suitable option. 

For more support and guidance with living with IBS, you can access resources via The IBS Network or Guts UK. 

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