Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic gastrointestinal condition. It affects 1 in 5 of us on a daily basis. Abdominal pain, discomfort, wind, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, rumbling noises, fatigue, backache, nausea, depression and anxiety are all symptoms.
The medical definition of IBS is recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least 3 days a month in the past 3 months, associated with two or more of the following;
- A change in frequency of stool
- A change in appearance of stool
- An improvement in symptoms after a bowel movement
Symptoms affect some people more severely than others and symptoms do vary between individuals. More women seem to be affected by IBS than men.
IBS can affect your quality of life as it is unpredictable. It can stop you going to work, socializing and eating the foods you enjoy. It is also often associated with low self-confidence or self esteem.
Several factors may play a role – such as an increased sensitivity of the gut to pain, a change in bowel motility and problems digesting certain foods, but the exact cause of IBS is unknown. Other factors also linked with IBS symptoms are gastroenteritis or psychological factors like stress.
Consult your doctor if you suspect you may have IBS. There are no tests for IBS, so a diagnosis may take time. To ensure nothing else might be causing your symptoms, like coeliac disease or bowel cancer, your doctor will need to follow a process of elimination. This might involve a gastroscopy, colonscopy and some blood tests. Your doctor can advise you on the next steps to take after he/she has diagnosed you with IBS.
IBS symptoms can be managed through medication, changes to your lifestyle and dietary therapy. The low FODMAP diet is a new diet designed to assist IBS sufferers. Fermentable carbohydrates are removed and reintroduced has been shown to help 3 out of 4 IBS sufferers. Please speak to your doctor about this diet. This diet should be done under careful supervision, so ask for a referral to a FODMAP trained dietitian. It is difficult to cut down on so many foods, and still eat a nutritionally balanced diet without specialist dietary advice. Help alleviate IBS symptoms by making other changes to your lifestyle such as exercise and managing stress.
Please contact EatFit Dietitians for more information on IBS & FODMAP.