IBS Awareness Month aims to raise awareness about the condition and encourage people who have symptoms of IBS to seek medical advice. The awareness month also aims to reduce the stigma associated with the condition by encouraging people to talk more about it more openly.
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a long-term condition of the digestive system, which can be painful and difficult to live with if you don’t have your symptoms under control. The symptoms tend to flare up in bouts lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months, and the symptoms themselves vary from person to person. However, the most common symptoms of IBS are:
- Stomach pains and cramping
- Diarrhoea and/or constipation
- Excessive wind
- A sudden urgent need to go to the toilet, and feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
- Passing mucus from your bottom
While the cause of IBS is not known, it is thought that the symptoms are brought on by a disruption to the interaction between brain, nervous system and gut. Although stress is not a direct cause of IBS, it can often trigger the condition and make the symptoms worse.
There’s no single diet or medicine that works for everyone with IBS, however, some of the following suggestions may help if you have been diagnosed with it:
- cooking homemade meals using fresh ingredients when you can
- keeping a diary of what you eat and any symptoms you get – try to avoid things that trigger your IBS
- to find ways to relax
- exercising regularly
- probiotics for a month to see if they help
- skipping meals
- eating too quickly
- fatty, spicy or processed foods
- more than 3 portions of fresh fruit a day (a portion is 80g)
- more than 3 cups of tea or coffee a day
- alcohol or fizzy drinks
There’s no test for IBS, but you might need some tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Your GP may arrange:
- a blood test to check for problems like coeliac disease
- tests on a sample of your poo to check for infections and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
You won’t usually need further tests in hospital unless your GP isn’t sure what the problem is.