Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS for short) is a widespread condition in the United Kingdom. In fact, statistics show that up to 20% of the population will develop a form of IBS at some point in their lives.
Because it can be a chronic illness IBS can feel like a life sentence, even stopping people from carrying out their daily activities and living normal lives. The symptoms can be debilitating at times, however with proper care the condition can usually be managed effectively.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition characterised by abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating and unpleasant changes in bowel behaviour such as diarrhoea or constipation. It is the most common form of intestinal upset, affecting between 10 to 20% of people in the UK.
The causes of this condition are not fully known. It is considered a functional disease, meaning that the function of the bowel is affected, without particular physical changes being apparent.
For most people, symptoms of IBS tend to present themselves for a few days and then disappear, only to return a few days later; or when triggered by certain foods or stress. However, for some people IBS can be a daily struggle. Because it is experienced in such a spectrum of ways, it can range from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful episodes.
How is it treated?
There is no cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but there is a way to control the symptoms and episodes. If you suffer from extreme episodes, it is important to speak to your GP in order to rule out the possibility of a more serious condition such as Crohn’s Disease or a stomach ulcer.
If you are diagnosed with IBS, you may be prescribed medication to reduce the spasms and calm your bowels; Colofac, Fybogel, and Colpermin are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs.
Lifestyle changes such as exercise, and dietary modifications to increase your intake of fibre and other nutrients, can also be helpful. Emotional factors, such as anxiety or stress can also contribute to IBS. Every case is different. For some it is just a sensitivity to certain types of foods, while in others the condition is related more to emotional distress.
It is important to speak to your doctor and not self-medicate; what works for some people may not work for you. When it comes to IBS patients require a solution that is tailored to their needs.
If you suffer from severe or incapacitating episodes of IBS, it may seem impossible to live a normal life. However, if you work together with your GP and create a plan that includes appropriate medication and a diet designed specifically for you, you can minimise symptoms and go on with your normal activities.
It may take time, and trial and error, but once you find what works for you, you will see your IBS episodes become less frequent. Symptoms will usually be less intense. Talk to your GP to begin to formulate a treatment plan.