IBS, also known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a very common gastrointestinal disorder which affects the digestive system and overall causes discomfort in the abdomen. IBS can cause a lot of issues within the stomach such as painful cramping, gas, bloating and a change in bowel movements (diarrhoea or constipation). Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and there is no known cause of why it occurs.
What are the main symptoms of IBS?
As everyone is different, symptoms can vary between individuals and some may suffer with more severe cases of IBS than others. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- Sharp abdominal pain or cramping which is often subsidises once bowel movements are passed
- Cases of diarrhoea
- Cases of constipation
- Infrequent or very frequent bowel movements
- Excessive wind/ gas
- Extreme bloating which occurs after eating
- Feeling full or sick after eating meals
Who can get IBS?
Anyone can get IBS unfortunately. However, statistics show that women are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with IBS as men. Irritable Bowel Syndrome can occur at any age. Often, symptoms begin to develop in early adulthood and people younger than the age of 50 are more likely to develop it than people over the age of 50.
How is IBS diagnosed?
Despite its common occurrence, there is not yet one specific test that can diagnose it. A doctor will usually ask about the individual’s medical history before anything else and from there perform a few physical or internal examinations. Commonly, blood tests are taken to rule out any other medical issues such as celiac, which is very similar to IBS. Stool samples are also another way of diagnosing other digestive disorders. If there are any major concerns, a colonoscopy may be used to see what is happening internally. A colonoscopy is a tiny camera which is inserted into the large intestine to find any abnormalities and to rule out if there are any cancerous lumps causing similar symptoms.
Are there any food groups which people with IBS should avoid?
Food is commonly a main trigger of IBS. The best way to know which food is causing symptoms is by keeping a food diary or note on what foods are causing the irritation.
The main IBS triggers are:
-Caffeine: coffee drinks, energy drinks
-Dairy products: Milk, cheese and ice cream
-Fatty foods: Foods high in sugar
-Insoluble fibre such as cereals
Are there any treatments for IBS?
If you are finding that changing your diet or cutting food groups out isn’t working, you may want to discuss with your doctor about further treatment. Treatment can include:
– Prescription medication: There are multiple different medications which could be offered to IBS sufferers. For example, laxatives or anti diarrhoea medicine, antibiotics, IBS targeted drugs and if necessary, antidepressants and anti anxieties.
-Avoiding trigger foods.
-Adding fibre to diet: This can help keep bowel movements regular.
When to see a GP or medical professional
If you are finding it difficult to get through day to day life without being in discomfort, then you should see your GP and see how medication or treatments could help. If you are finding that you are avoiding food groups and on medication but still having issues, it may be time to visit a specialist. You might be considering seeing a specialist who can offer their expert knowledge on your digestive issues. Mr Andrew Clarke works privately and specialises as a colorectal surgeon. A specialist like this can help make recommendations, or suggest other ways to relieve any symptoms and pain.