Generally, symptoms include:
- Bloated stomach, which feels uncomfortable and swollen
- Excessive wind
- An urgent need to go to the toilet, and a sense of relief afterwards
- Abdominal pain and cramps, that feel like your stomach is contracting
- Change in bowel habits, from constipation to diarrhoea, or a combination of both
- Hard or loose stools on a regular basis
- Passing clear or white mucus in your poo
These symptoms can also leave you feeling unwell in general and wider issues can arise, such as:
- Feeling low of energy, due to lack of nutrient absorption, or just from managing symptoms
- Feeling of nausea
- Frequent urination, and need to pee urgently, or incontinence
- Painful sex
People that suffer with IBS commonly have bouts of diarrhoea and constipation. Diarrhoea is generally caused when food moves too quickly through your digestive tract and results in the liquid from food not being extracted sufficiently by the body.
The reverse happens with constipation, in that the food moves slowly through the digestive system, and in turn, too much liquid is extracted making stools too hard.
This could be related to the brain to gut signals being disrupted in some way that causes digestion to increase or decrease in speed.
Other thoughts relate to:
- Increased sensitivity of the gut
- Psychological issues, such as stress
- Certain food and drinks that trigger symptoms
Consultation with a specialist that can conduct the necessary diagnosis tests is the first step.
During diagnosis, it is important for the doctor to eliminate the possibility of other conditions with similar symptoms. These could include:
- Coeliac disease – an intolerance to gluten
- Other food intolerances
- Inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Bowel cancer
IBS treatment options can include:
- Change in diet to ensure the correct level and type of fibre intake
- Change in eating habits to ensure you have sufficient time to digest your food
- Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
- Reducing stress levels
- Probiotics that can help improve digestive health
- Medication, including:
- Antispasmodics, to reduce stomach cramping
- Laxatives, to ease constipation
- Antimotility medicines, to help with diarrhoea
There isn’t a one-size fit all with IBS treatment. It is a case of working with your doctor and a registered dietician to find the solution that works best for you.