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Digestive Health 2020

IBS is a very individual condition

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Alison Reid 

Chief Executive, The IBS Network

More than 12 million people in the UK suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional disorder of the bowel. Alison Reid, Chief Executive of The IBS Network, explains more.

What causes IBS? 

There is no specific cause for IBS. But the most common risk factors are an attack of gastroenteritis, a traumatic or upsetting event, and courses of powerful antibiotics. 

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, increased flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, mixed diarrhoea/constipation and passing mucus. Other symptoms include lethargy, nausea, backache and bladder symptoms. IBS is a very individual condition and symptoms will vary for each person. 

What can trigger symptoms? 

Triggers will be a combination of the food that we eat and the amount of stress in our lives. Eating foods high in fat, consuming alcohol, large portion sizes, eating too much fruit with stones and certain vegetables, fizzy drinks, and high fibre foods. 

Not getting enough sleep, eating on the go, rushing meals and having an erratic eating pattern will also very likely negatively impact someone living with IBS and cause a flare up of their condition. 

There is no cure for IBS and no one treatment that works for everyone. The key to living well with IBS is self-management.

Get a diagnosis from your doctor 

If you are experiencing IBS symptoms, it’s important that you speak to your GP. 

Do not self-diagnose and start to treat what you think might be IBS before receiving a diagnosis from a medical professional, as you may be at risk of other conditions with similar symptoms going undiagnosed. 

If you are diagnosed with IBS, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian. Whilst waiting for your appointment, try to identify your triggers. The IBS Network has a 12-week wellness diary and online symptom tracker to help you identify and manage your symptoms. 

How to treat IBS 

There is no cure for IBS and no one treatment that works for everyone. The key to living well with IBS is self-management. Once you have a better understanding of what is happening in your body you will be able to explore what treatments work best for you. By taking control of your condition, you will already have started to feel better psychologically. 

Treatments include dietary and lifestyle changes; psychological therapies (talking therapies) and medications (see your GP or pharmacist for advice). These may be used together or on their own depending on the possible cause and severity of your IBS.

For information, advice and support with your IBS, contact The IBS Network, the national charity for people living with the condition

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