Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects a large intestine. IBS is a long-term condition that affects your digestive system. It causes pain or discomfort in your tummy (abdomen) and a change in your bowel habits. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.

Who is at risk of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

About two in 10 people in the UK have IBS. You can develop IBS at any age and it is not uncommon for people in their 20s and 30s to develop the condition. Women are twice as likely to get it as men. Approximately one third of IBS patients suffer from bouts of constipation, one third suffer from bouts of diarrhoea and most other patients don’t fall in to a single pattern. The form of IBS that seems to follow gastroenteritis often leads to the diarrhoea type.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Continued 

During digestion, the intestine squeezes its contents along our insides towards the anus. This process (peristalsis) is usually painless and we do not realise that it is happening unless there is abnormal squeeze within the bowel or, for some reason, the intestine becomes more sensitive. These changes can be quite painful. Some patients with IBS seem to be very sensitive to the way that their intestines are moving. Identifying these different types of IBS is important because treatments often work quite differently depending upon whether diarrhoea or constipation is the main problem. However we do know that the pattern of bowel movements can alter over time and this means that your treatment might need to change should your symptoms vary.

What are the risk factors of IBS?

• Food sensitives- depending on the person’s digestive system as some foods such as fatty foods, fried foods, fizzy drinks and alcohol can cause upset in the person’s digestive system.

• Gender- IBS is more common in women than men. This could be due to hormonal changes in the female menstrual cycle.

• Age- Symptoms are more likely to appear at a later stage people between the age of 20 and 30

• Family- if you have a first degree relative i.e. parent or siblings with IBS then you are at greater risk of developing the condition.

• Psychological- Trauma, stress, emotional problems, depression, abuse physical or sexual

• Irregular mealtimes- Eating at irregular times or eating an abnormal diet may trigger IBS.

• Food Poisoning- IBS can develop after experiencing food poisoning

What are the symptoms of IBS?

• Pain or discomfort in your tummy

• Stomach pain and cramping

• Diarrhoea

• Constipation

• Bloating

• Swelling of stomach

• Excessive wind

• 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

How can IBS be managed?

• Balanced diet

• Eating smaller portions of food

• Drink lots of water

• Quitting Smoking

• Exercise

• Avoiding Too Much Caffeine

• Fibre- foods such as oat, apples, bananas, wholegrain bread, nuts etc.

• Eat slowly

• Reduce or Quit Drinking Alcohol 

• Reduce stress

• Always make sure you have access to a form of toilet even if it is public.

How is IBS Diagnosed? 

Your GP will ask about your symptoms, such as:

  • what symptoms you have
  • if they come and go
  • how often you get them
  • when you get them (for example, after eating certain foods)
  • how long you've had them

Your GP may also feel your tummy to check for lumps or swelling.

There's no test for IBS, but you might need some tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

Your GP may arrange:

  • a blood test to check for problems like coeliac disease
  • tests on a sample of your poo to check for infections and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • You won't usually need further tests in hospital unless your GP isn't sure what the problem is.
  • If your GP thinks you have IBS, they'll talk to you about what it is and what the treatment options are.