What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a collective term for a group of symptoms relating to the large intestine. It is estimated to effect as many as one in five Australians. Sufferers are also more likely to be women than men - but despite its prevalence, IBS can be tricky to identify and diagnose.
Common symptoms of IBS?
IBS manifests itself differently for everyone. In some cases it can be very debilitating, such stomach pains and irregular bowel motions, while in others it can be less severe but equally annoying (impeding on daily decisions).
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Abdominal pain, cramping and discomfort
- Diarrhea or constipation, or alternating between the two
- Feeling of incomplete bowel movement
- Bloating and gas
What causes IBS?
The underlying cause of IBS remains somewhat of a mystery. IBS is usually a blanket diagnosis given by a GP when other diagnostic tests have ruled out anything sinister. This can be frustrating when looking for answers and trying to understand what to do next.
While there is no silver bullet for treating IBS, there are some things you can do to best manage your symptoms and bring your body back into balance.
Modify Your Diet
One of the most effective ways to manage IBS symptoms is to modify your diet. This involves identifying and avoiding foods that trigger your symptoms. Common food triggers include fatty foods, spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and dairy products. You may also want to try a low FODMAP diet, which eliminates certain types of carbohydrates that are difficult to digest and can trigger IBS symptoms. Before making any dietary changes, it's important to work with a registered dietician to ensure that you are still getting all the necessary nutrients while avoiding trigger foods.
Stress can exacerbate IBS symptoms via the connection between your gut and your brain (the gut-brain axis), so managing stress is an important part of symptom management. Try to find stress-reducing activities that work for you, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. Regular exercise can also help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
Take a holistic approach.
Like we have discussed, IBS is tricky and may be occurring for a number of different reasons. We always recommend speaking with a health practitioner and taking a taking a holistic approach in supporting your body towards a happier, healthier you.