The term IBS is quite often used, thrown around here and there to describe a wide range of digestive issues and their associated symptoms – but what, exactly, is IBS?
Defined by the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GSA), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder can see sufferers experience abdominal pain, and bloating, and in some instances, diarrhoea and bloating. The GSA estimates that up to 20% of all Australians will experience the symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS – at some point in their lives, and that women are 50% more likely to develop IBS than men. There are largely three categories of IBS: constipation dominant, diarrhoea dominant and those that alternate between the two aforementioned categories.
What causes IBS?
There are many different triggers for IBS, however, most are largely environmental. For instance, a change in routine, a period of intense stress, or the onset of an infection such as gastroenteritis. The development of food intolerances (particularly lactose intolerance) can also bring on an episode of IBS. Finally, a diet low in fibre can cause IBS in some individuals, particularly those who suffer from constipation dominant IBS.
If you believe you are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it’s important to discuss your concerns with your chosen health care provider. They will be able to suggest a variety of diagnosis methods, and importantly, will in most cases check that the symptoms you are experiencing are not related to any other digestive illnesses. There are a wide range of digestive illnesses (coeliac disease, diverticulitis) that can present with the same, or similar symptoms to IBS – so it’s imperative to seek the medical support you require.
How can IBS be managed?
There are many different strategies for managing IBS on an ongoing basis – but the first step is to identify exactly what triggers an episode. Commonly used strategies include adding a little more fibre to the diet – as well as increasing water intake. Reducing foods that cause discomfort or the onset of symptoms can also be effective; in particular, avoiding common gas producing foods and dairy products. Medications can also be effective in treating IBS, however, once again, will need to be discussed and prescribed by your health care provider based on your specific symptoms and requirements. Finally, if lifestyle factors are your main cause of IBS, doing your best to minimise periods of intense stress, and avoiding sudden changes in your routine can both make a big difference.
When it comes to IBS, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Each person’s symptoms are different, so too are their triggers and their management techniques. If you believe you are suffering from IBS, please consult your health care provider for personalised treatment and management strategies.
Intended as general advice only. Please consult your health care provider to discuss any specific concerns.