Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is an increasingly common disorder. In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates that it affects between 10% and 20% of the population, though many more people may be undiagnosed.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome affects the muscles of both the small and large intestines. This disrupts the body’s ability to process food and waste.
After you have eaten, our intestinal muscles work to move food through your digestive system. As the muscles tighten and relax to allow food to pass, your body absorbs essential water and nutrients from this food.
IBS can occur when the intestinal muscles don’t work properly, causing severe pain and discomfort, often at times of stress.
What causes IBS?
There are many different triggers thought to bring about irritable bowel syndrome, but an exact cause has yet to be identified.
Sufferers who have a sensitivity to certain foods, which can cause inflammation of the intestinal wall, experience IBS symptoms. Bacterial infections of the stomach and intestines, known as gastroenteritis, are also thought to lead to IBS. Stress and anxiety can also trigger symptoms. Food intolerance testing
can help identify any reactions to food you may have, changing your diet to help to improve your health and wellbeing.
What are IBS symptoms?
One of the most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is abdominal pain, caused by cramping of the intestinal muscle wall. Other symptoms include:
The type of symptoms a patient suffers from can depend on the type of IBS they have.
Do I have IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome can go undiagnosed in many sufferers because symptoms such as constipation, flatulence, headaches and cramps can be attributed to a multitude of other ailments. However, if you are suffering from any of the above symptoms it is important you seek medical advice. Professionals may then use diagnostic tools such as a colonoscopy
to determine the cause of your discomfort.
What are the different types of IBS?
There are three main types of IBS:
1. IBS and diarrhoea
If the intestinal muscles tighten and relax too quickly when trying to process food and waste, the body is not able to absorb enough water. Instead, the water continues to pass through the body, resulting in watery stools, or diarrhoea.
2. IBS with constipation
If the intestinal muscles tighten and relax too slowly when trying to process food and waste, the body absorbs more water than usual. This means less water is passed through the body, resulting in hard stools, or constipation.
3. IBS with bloating
If the intestinal muscles go into spasms or abdominal cramps when trying to pass food and water, gas can become trapped inside the intestine. This can cause bloating and significant pain for the sufferer.
Who can diagnose IBS?
If you think you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, speak with an expert, such as one of Pall Mall Medical’s coloproctologist or gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist specialises in diseases and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.
A private gastroenterologist/ coloproctologist will then be able to advise you on the appropriate method to treat IBS. This may include a change in diet and lifestyle, supplements or medication.