Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A Common Digestive Disorder

IBS primarily affects women and may be caused by changes in routine, emotional stress, infections, inappropriate toileting, diet and other factors. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, mucus in the stools, constipation and/or diarrhoea. These symptoms, weight loss, anaemia and bleeding can indicate more serious bowel conditions, so speak to your Doctor if they persist.

Given the varied causes and symptoms of IBS, management varies as well. Consistent exercise and improved sleep are a good starting point. Eating regular, smaller portions and chewing food thoroughly may aid in symptom control.  Triggers to watch out for include caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks, fatty food, insoluble fibre, lactose-containing food, wheat, spicy food and artificial sweeteners. Consider keeping a food diary, taking one food out of your diet for a period, and reintroducing it if there is no change. Then move onto the next food. It is important to still maintain a balanced diet and reduce intake of healthy but problematic foods, rather than eliminate them completely.

If avoiding common triggers isn’t effective, more advanced elimination diets and probiotics can be tried. Increasing your soluble fibre (psyllium) intake may help with diarrhoea or constipation and stool consistency. Antispasmodics, Peppermint oil and Iberogast may be used to relax gut muscles, relieve cramping and abdominal pain. Loperamide can be used to control diarrhoea, particularly if taken before going out. Natural anti-inflammatories such as omega-3 and turmeric may be helpful to reduce inflammation. Your Pharmacist can direct you to the right product for your symptoms.

It is likely that anxiety and stress worsen IBS symptoms and altering your lifestyle to include leisurely walks, yoga or other relaxation techniques may be of benefit. If depression is a factor, this should be treated by your Doctor.



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