IBS is a chronic condition which affects your digestion. It can lead to a change in bowel habits and tummy discomfort.
The condition affects about about two out of every ten people in the UK. People who have it usually experience episodes six or more times annually. The length and severity of symptoms varies from person to person, often in response to changes in diet or lifestyle.
You can develop IBS at any point in your life, but many people get their first symptoms when they’re between 20 and 50. Interestingly, women are twice as likely to report symptoms than men.
The common signs of IBS
Symptoms associated with IBS usually come on after eating or drinking. These symptoms can stretch to a few days. After this, the symptoms might get better, but might stick around and be difficult to eliminate.
The most common symptoms of IBS are:
- stomach pains and cramps
- changes in your bowel habits that might involve both constipation or diarrhoea
- excessive bloating and flatulence (wind)
- Sometimes needing to go to the toilet immediately
In addition to the main symptoms, some people with IBS experience a number of other problems. These can include:
- low energy
- bouts of nausea
- bladder problems
These symptoms can be mild, or they can be serious enough to impact a person’s work and other areas of their life. If left untreated, IBS symptoms can have a profound psychological effect on the individual. Many people with severe IBS symptoms might also develop feelings of anxiety and embarrassment.
Different types of IBS
There is no diagnosis “test” for IBS. Instead, diagnosis is based on symptoms, and IBS is classified into groups (mainly diarrhoea, mainly constipation, mixed bowel habits or mainly bloating).
Identifying these various kinds of IBS is essential because treatments are often quite unique based on whether diarrhoea or constipation is the cause of the issue. But we also understand that the pattern of bowel movements can change over time, which suggests that if your symptoms differ, your therapy may also need to change accordingly.
It’s definitely time to see your GP if you have any of the following:
- A sudden change in bowel habit lasting six weeks, if you are over 60
- the above symptoms as well as a family history of bowel disease (such as cancer, colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- blood in your stool
- a persistent fever
- Unexplained weight-loss
Your doctor will be able to run tests to rule out other possible conditions you may have.
The Abergavenny Dietitian
As an experienced dietitian, I understand how much an irritable bowel can have an impact on your daily life, and how difficult it can be to manage. I have years of experience on the NHS successfully helping people manage their chronic symptoms, and I’d like to help you too. We still haven’t found a cure for IBS, but certain lifestyle changes and other treatments can help.
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