Are You Suffering With IBS?
IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. If you suffer from IBS you'll know how it can affect every part of your life: from outings and parties, to your general day to day life. Irritable bowel syndrome is a common stomach disorder, often known to cause varying degrees of abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a poo.
These side effects can vary from person to person. Contrary to popular belief IBS isn't a medical condition in itself, it's more a collection of symptoms, each of which may be related to other issues.
According to the NHS website these are common gastrointestinal symptoms related to IBS:
- a change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both
- bloating and swelling of your stomach
- excessive wind (flatulence)
- occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet
- a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
- passing mucus from your bottom
The NHS also list these other symptoms as commonly associated with IBS:
- a lack of energy (lethargy)
- feeling sick
- bladder problems (such as needing to wake up to urinate at night, experiencing an urgent need to urinate and difficulty fully emptying the bladder)
- pain during sex (dyspareunia)
Further to this some other common illnesses have also been linked to IBS with some scientists claiming that depression, fybromialgia and psoriasis are all form of IBS.
Food triggers can make IBS symptoms worse, and often people have to adapt their diet to avoid symptoms worsening. Although food triggers are only part of the problem and symptoms are not always intestinal in nature it is now considered that foods with the FODMAPS complex are the main culprits. FODMAPs stand for Ffuco, Oligo, Disaccarides and Poliols. These are fibres and sugars which occur in many, otherwise, healthy foods.
Some of the main offenders include dairy, wheat grains (not necessarily gluten), pulses, sugar alcohols and high fructose fruits. You've all heard that song about beans being good for your heart but they make you... Yeah, that's because they're a FODMAP.
Stress is another reason that IBS can flare up. Stress on our body can affect us negatively in many ways. It is thought that stress can cause symptoms to worsen. This would make sense, as most of us have experienced butterflies in our stomach before a big event, such as a new job or wedding. If it can affect an average stomach, a sensitive one is going to feel it too. To keep symptoms to a minimum, try to help your body in stressful situations by regulating your breathing and being kind to yourself. Avoid putting yourself through unnecessary stress.
Hormones can be another trigger of IBS. Women are more likely to suffer with IBS, probably because of our fluctuating hormones. Symptoms can sometimes appear or disappear after childbirth, and it is not uncommon for sufferers symptoms to worsen during their menstrual period. Hormonal changes affect everything we do, changing the way our body functions so it is unsurprising that it can affect our digestive system.
According to the NHS, IBS affects one in five people with development often ocurring in people between the ages of 20-30. It's said that twice as many women suffer with it compared to men but this might simply be that men don't report it as often. Some observational research has indicated that it may be hereitory but this may be more through inherited eating habits or a stressful environment.
Try to manage stress and anxiety to keep symptoms at bay and perhaps keep a food diary and note how you feel daily. If you suspect IBS to be a problem then you ought to speak with your GP, who may be able to refer you for an exploratory procedure to rule out anything more sinister. If that is clear then you should consider seeing a Registered Dietician who can advise you about FODMAP elimination protocols and subsequent gut healing supplementation. It's always best to do this under clinical guidance otherwise you're only guessing. It's also worth memtioning that a FODMAP diet isn't a long term lifestyle choice and may lead to other deficiencies if managed poorly.
But stress management should really be your first port of call. No one has ever complained of an IBS flare-up while sitting on a pedalo in the Maldives.