Gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, cramping, loose bowel movements and constipation are something to just put up with. For many the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are a disruptive part of daily life. Irritable bowel syndrome otherwise known as IBS is a common condition which affects approximately 1 in 7 New Zealanders. It’s characterised by a group of uncomfortable abdominal and intestinal symptoms; however, the majority of people will not seek help for IBS. In this article we will look at what IBS is, the symptoms, the triggers, and how to manage the condition.
IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that affects the stomach and intestines. IBS is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it does not cause inflammation or damage to the intestinal lining. While IBS is usually harmless, the symptoms can be severe in intensity, and may last from weeks to months at a time. It can therefore be a frustrating condition to live with.
IBS is characterised by a group of symptoms that occur together. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. The symptoms of IBS tend to come and go over time, sometimes they have specific triggers. Some of the most common symptoms of IBS are:
Some symptoms unrelated to the gastrointestinal tract that may be associated with IBS are:
While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, it is known that the symptoms of IBS can be triggered by a variety of diet and lifestyle factors. Spikes in stress and anxiety levels can be followed by a flare up of IBS symptoms or are said to make IBS symptoms worse.
Often people with IBS will find that certain foods and beverages are triggers for their IBS symptoms. Common dietary triggers include:
While there is no cure for IBS, there are ways to manage the condition and improve quality of life. Because IBS can be trigger by many things it’s important to find out what your triggers are and make lifestyle and diet changes.
If your symptoms persist, don’t improve or are a common occurrence you should see your healthcare provider for a check-up. You should also see a healthcare professional immediately if you experience sudden changes or symptoms such as:
These symptoms could indicate a more serious condition and your healthcare professional will be able to organise the appropriate tests.
IBS has many symptoms and can affect people in a variety of ways. The symptoms of bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, and constipation make it difficult to live a normal life. While there is no cure, making dietary and lifestyle changes may help to reduce the symptoms, and avoid triggers. It is important to remember that many conditions share the symptoms of IBS and if you are concerned you should speak with a healthcare professional.