As April is IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Awareness Month I thought I would give you some information about this debilitating condition which is thought to affect up to 25% of people worldwide. Despite the fact that it is so common – about 20% of men and women in the UK suffer IBS – it is difficult to diagnose and unfortunately notoriously difficult to treat.
Symptoms of IBS
There is a wide range of symptoms associated with IBS with sufferers enduring one or more at the same time. Typically they include:
- Abdominal pain including muscle spasms and cramping
- Flatulence often accompanied by pain which is then relieved
- Bloating at any time of day but often in the evening
- Alternating diarrhoea or constipation
What are the causes?
There are several different causes for IBS and this is what makes it such a difficult condition to diagnose. However, any of the following can be considered contributory factors:
- Food intolerance or sensitivity
- Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO)
- Parasites, bacterial and fungal infections of the gut
- Leaky gut
- Hormonal imbalance
- Chemical sensitivities
- Poor diet which is low in nutrients but high in sugars
What should you do if you have these symptoms?
In the first instance it is essential to visit your GP to rule out any more serious considerations. If you suffer any of the symptoms listed above and have also noticed blood or mucus in your stool you must get this checked out. Your GP may well send you to a gastroenterologist for investigation.
How can you help yourself?
- Keep a food diary and make a note of your symptoms and see if you can relate them to any particular foods you may be eating.
- Also, be aware of how you eat – bolting meals and not chewing properly can cause all kinds of unpleasant symptoms and put your digestion under a lot of strain
- If you think your diet may be low in nutrients then address this by ‘cleaning’ it up.
- Address the stress in your life – there is a great deal of evidence to show that stress can have a big impact on your gut health and vice versa.
- Be aware that antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflmmatories (NSAIDs) and other medications can alter gut flora
Look into food allergies: common allergens include dairy, wheat, eggs, citrus fruit, soya products and corn. You may be able to get allergy testing on the NHS – check this with your GP.
- Sometimes including more fibre in the diet can help but equally for some people this may irritate symptoms. Avoid wheat bran and germ which can be too ‘abrasive’ and instead introduce vegetables, oats and fruits such as stewed apple or pear.
- Reduce sugars and processed foods including salty snacks.
- Cut down on alcohol.
- Avoiding deep fried foods and fatty foods or anything that you find difficult to digest.
- Drink camomile, peppermint or fennel teas especially after eating
- Eat probiotic foods such as plain, bio yoghurts to replenish the beneficial gut bacteria
There are many supplements – herbs and other nutrients – that can help but you are better off consulting a health professional before introducing these into your diet.
IBS is unique to each individual and what will prove helpful to one will not necessarily benefit another.
If you would like more information on IBS and your own diet, why not get in touch with our experienced Nutritional Therapist, Pippa Mitchell, who can help devise a diet appropriate for you.
Call Reception on 01483 527 945 for more information.