Getting to Grips With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
The majority of people, when asked, would be able to tell you roughly what IBS is. To most, IBS is simply irritable bowel syndrome, a disturbance in the large intestine and colon that causes the sufferer discomfort and pain. The reality, though, is a much more complex affair.
IBS is actually the name that doctors, and the medical profession at large, use to describe a number of disconnected and unexplained symptoms relating to the colon and large intestine, including severe abdominal pain and spasms, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and various pains associated with a bowel movement. Usually a series of tests are carried out to establish IBS as the cause of any issues. These tests also work to rule out any other serious conditions, and often include X-rays, blood tests, endoscopies and other diagnostic checks.
IBS is most frequently associated with young women during times of stress or change, but due to the nature of the bowel and its workings, as much as 15% of the population could fit the diagnostic criteria for IBS at any time. There is no cure for IBS, largely due to the amount of varied circumstances and conditions that can lie at its root, but it is manageable if you pay close attention to what aggravates the condition in your body and learn how to minimise the impact of flare-ups.
The most basic way to help combat attacks of IBS is to watch what you eat. Certain foods can react badly with the condition but that does not mean they should be ruled out all together. IBS is not caused by an intolerance, unlike other conditions such as celiac disease where gluten cannot be ingested, and so you should not unbalance your diet to accommodate it in the longer term. It may be necessary to include forms of soluble fibre from the likes of bananas and beans when you're suffering, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy all your other favourite foods at other times.
As well as tracking and managing your food, it's also important to keep an eye on your mood. IBS is essentially a sensitive gut, and that gut can be as sensitive to emotional factors as anything else. In this respect, IBS can be seen as similar to anxiety and depression in that it has emotional triggers and thought patterns that aggravate the condition. Knowing how to stay calm and level headed in adverse situations can be a huge step toward living with IBS more effectively.
The most important way to deal with IBS, however, is to seek support in any form. Probiotics and relaxation treatments may work differently for each individual, regulating the bowel better and lessening the effects of emotional triggers, but the best way to live with IBS is often to talk about it. The workings of your bowel may seem like a subject that can't be approached, but the more people around you understand its effects and the day-to-day realities of your condition the easier it will be to live with.
There are support groups available, both online and in person, for when you need to talk about IBS with other sufferers, but you should never underestimate how helpful support from family and friends can be. Along with the right management of your diet and some emotional intelligence they can help IBS become as small a part of your life as possible.
If you are suffering from pain or discomfort of the abdomen, acid reflux, irregular bowel movements or are concerned about food intolerances, why not get in touch for advice and guidance on 0208 123 0703?