Getting stomach cramps or bloating all the time? Something you’ve always had? Or just recently?
Here’s some information about Irritable Bowel Syndrome and what our qualified GPs can offer to you!
What is IBS?
IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system.
It causes symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. These tend to come and go over time, and can last for days, weeks or months at a time.
It’s usually a lifelong problem. It can be very frustrating to live with and can have a big impact on your everyday life.
There’s no cure, but diet changes and medicines can often help control the symptoms.
The exact cause is unknown – it’s been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress, and a family history of IBS.
The IBS Network has more about diet and IBS medicines. Exercise can also help reduce symptoms.
The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is unknown, but most experts think that it’s related to problems with digestion and increased sensitivity of the gut.
Many causes have been suggested – including inflammation, infections and certain diets – but none have been proven to directly lead to IBS.
Your body usually moves food through your digestive system by squeezing and relaxing the muscles of the intestines in a rhythmic way. However, in IBS it’s thought that this process is altered, resulting in food moving through your digestive system either too quickly or too slowly.
There is also some evidence to suggest that psychological factors play an important role in IBS. However, this does not mean that IBS is “all in the mind”, because symptoms are very real.
The main symptoms of IBS are:
- Stomach pain or cramps – usually worse after eating and better after doing a poo
- Bloating – your tummy may feel uncomfortably full and swollen
- Diarrhoea – you may have watery poo and sometimes need to poo suddenly
- Constipation – you may strain when poo-ing and feel like you can’t empty your bowels fully
There may be days when your symptoms are better and days when they’re worse (flare-ups). They may be triggered by food or drink.
Commonly alcohol, caffeine, certain foods such as spicy or fatty foods, and stress as well as anxiety can cause a flare up.
You should see a GP if you are experiencing the above symptoms and are worried that you may have IBS.
Before your appointment, it might help to write down details of your symptoms to help you remember them. Your GP will ask about your symptoms, such as:
There’s no test for IBS, but you might need some tests to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms.
Your GP may arrange a blood test to check for problems such as coeliac disease.
You won’t usually need further tests in hospital unless your GP isn’t sure what the problem is.
If you get diagnosed with IBS, the GP will talk to you about treatment options including lifestyle changes and low FODMAP diets. They may refer you to a dietitian or specialist for advice and can also suggest other treatments to try.
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