Article in Body and Soul
The need-to-know on Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common condition that affects around one in five Australians. It usually affects women more so than men and can be quite debilitating, affecting your both physical and mental health. Although the exact cause is not yet known it is thought to be triggered by several possible factors including intestinal infection or an imbalance in bowel flora, due to a food intolerance, or due to a hypersensitive bowel caused by high stress and/or anxiety levels. So what are some of the symptoms? Let’s take a look.
Signs & Symptoms of IBS
Some of the more common signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- Frequent loose stools or constipation or alternating diarrhoea and constipation
- Abdominal pain or cramping that comes and goes
- Abdominal bloating and discomfort
- Mucus present in the stools
Keep in mind that there are some warning signs to look out for that indicate a more serious underlying condition may be present. These include blood in your stools, severe pain, pain at night keeping you awake, fever and chills, or unplanned weight loss.
Treatment for IBS
Unfortunately IBS cannot be cured but can be managed by identifying and avoiding potential triggers. Therefore some management options include:
- If constipation is an issue increase your daily dietary fibre intake along with plenty of water. Occasionally constipation may need to be treated with medications available from your pharmacy such as laxatives, suppositories, or enemas.
- If cramping is an issue you may need to use antispasmodic medication such as hyoscine e.g. Buscopan and/or peppermint oil capsules e.g. Mintec.
- If diarrhea is an issue consider taking medication in the management of loose bowel motions such as Imodium or lomotil. These medications should not be used long-term as they may lead to constipation.
- If bloating is an issue then removing gas-producing foods such as legumes, cabbage, broccoli, and onions may improve symptoms. Reducing or eliminating dairy foods may help in reducing bloating if lactose intolerance is the issue. Occasionally individuals choose to undertake an elimination diet by way of uncovering which particular foods are the exact trigger for their IBS symptoms. Keep in mind that once you have found what triggers your IBS symptoms you may be able to tolerate eating those foods but just in smaller amounts.
- Reducing stress levels may further help reduce symptoms if high stress is a trigger.
- More recently an intolerance or inability to digest foods known as FODMAPs are thought to contribute to IBS symptoms in many individuals. A low-FODMAP diet may help to relieve symptoms in this case. For further information regarding the low-FODMAP click here, here and here.
A good place to start in diagnosing and understanding what triggers your IBS symptoms would be to talk with your local GP.