Common Symptoms of IBS, and How to Combat the Condition
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS for short, is a rather mysterious medical condition. It’s not known exactly what causes it; but despite this fact, it still remains one of the UK’s most common digestive complaints. In fact, it’s thought to affect as many as a third of the UK population at some point or another in their lives.
Recognising the Symptoms of IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects people in a variety of different ways. Common symptoms include:
- Pain and cramping in the stomach
- Excess wind
- Passing mucus when having a poo
- A feeling that you haven’t emptied your bowels properly after going to the toilet
Occasionally, sufferers will experience other symptoms, such as:
- Bladder problems and urinary incontinence
- Pain during intercourse
It’s important to be aware that these symptoms are also related to other medical conditions. If you experience any of them, it’s worth booking an appointment with your GP to get a proper diagnosis.
It’s widely recognised that IBS can be triggered by certain foods or lifestyle choices. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks can exacerbate the problem, and fatty or fried food also seem to make the problem worse. Likewise, sugary foods and processed products are linked to triggering attacks of IBS.
Aim to stick to a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit and wholegrains instead, to help avoid your IBS symptoms flaring up. Some experts also believe that probiotics can also help, though official research has so far produced conflicting results.
Other Factors Causing IBS
So far, research seems to suggest that stress causes symptoms of IBS to worsen. By focusing on managing stress, many sufferers are able to avoid triggering a flare-up. Regular periods of relaxation can help, as can activities such as yoga or meditation.
Additionally, certain types of antibiotic can cause an IBS flare-up. However, in most cases, this is only temporary and symptoms should ease as soon as the course of antibiotics is complete.
If constipation or diarrhoea are having significant impact on the quality of your life, then there are over-the-counter medications that can help to temporarily ease the problem, such as laxatives or anti-diarrhoea medicines. However, these should not be used as a long-term solution to the problem.
Alternatively, peppermint oil offers relief from bloating, excess wind and cramping. If these solutions do not offer you relief, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants to help. They are effective at reducing the pain associated with IBS, even if you’re not suffering from depression.
Medical Developments of the Future
As of yet, there are no specific medications for IBS. However, trials are now underway at St Mark’s Hospital, London testing a new drug which helps to stimulate the gut to return to normal working order.
Dr Alasdair Forbes, who is leading the trials, comments: ‘We believe one in four IBS patients will benefit from the drug.’ Likewise, a spokesman for the Digestive Disorder Foundation adds: ’This is an extremely exciting development.’
In the meantime, your GP may recommend cognitive behavioural therapy to help ease your symptoms of IBS, especially if your IBS is connected to a stressful lifestyle.